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INTERVIEW CON-X 2022 | Mirja Sickel,EVP, Traveler Centric Platform, Nexwave, Amadeus

Mirja Sickel,  EVP, Traveler Centric Platform, Nexwave, Amadeus
Can you tell us how you became part of the Amadeus team and what projects you are currently working on?

After working in the hotel industry, at an airport, and an airline, it was a natural step for me to move to Amadeus, a technology company successfully serving the travel industry with reservation and operational systems in all verticals. In Amadeus, I worked for a long time in the airlines and distribution areas, in commercial and marketing roles. I got to know the exciting railway industry, completely different from the airline one. We helped railways improve how they sell their offering globally and make it as easy to purchase a train ticket as an airline ticket. 

After these great years, I moved in 2020 to our innovation area, where we incubate new businesses. Here I oversee a very interesting initiative called Amadeus Traveler Centric Platform, by which we want to facilitate the insight sharing about the traveler between different travel actors and thus empower them to service their common customer better. 

Competitiveness is increasing every day, and large companies continue to grow exponentially ... Is there any limit?

I believe that not only large companies continue to grow, but also small ones, which also play an important role in the travel ecosystem. To improve our competitiveness we focus on innovation, following a structured incubation process, and applying best practices in innovation management. Our strong focus on innovation helps us:

  • support the industry in its recovery from the pandemic, 
  • provide our customers with the best solutions, 
  • offer travelers the best experience, 
  • and identify new areas of growth.

The mission of Nexwave, the Amadeus business incubator, is to identify, incubate and grow new business opportunities to shape the travel experience today and tomorrow.

In our innovation projects, we try to be data-driven, make decisions based on facts, build light MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), and release product improvements rapidly through short cycles based on immediate market learning. The objective is to ensure we design solutions that solve a real need for our customers and increase our likelihood for success. 

How important are technology and connectivity for your business?

Amadeus is a technology company dedicated to the travel industry. Technology and innovation are at the heart of what makes Amadeus successful. We support travel industry growth with significant investment in technology, and we invested €787 million in R&D in 2021. We remain leaders in R&D investment in the travel industry and rank the fourth-largest R&D investor in the software industry in Europe.

Technology has always been critical to developing global travel. Travelers today expect to be always connected. Mobile devices, artificial intelligence, and data analytics give people more ideas, options, and control over their journeys. Today's travelers want a personalized way to travel and search for unique experiences. They also expect their journeys to be one single, smooth experience—from thinking of where to go to their destination to arriving back home. 

We believe that this desire for connectivity will continue to grow—across all modes of transport, experiences, and devices. We are investing in these opportunities and exploring new models that will drive our customers' growth, experimenting with technologies that will make travel more rewarding for all of us. 

In your experience, and considering that the round table where you will participate is "Adapt. Pivot", how do you think travel companies are adapting after two long years of crisis?

COVID-19 has presented many challenges for all sectors, particularly the travel industry. But it has also offered an opportunity to adopt new approaches and technology, allowing the industry to rebuild and be best prepared for whatever comes next. At Amadeus, we have been helping our customers adapt, pivot, and succeed by delivering new solutions to support the industry's recovery and get the world moving again. 

Some examples include:

  • Harnessing cloud technology with Microsoft to innovate and explore new products and solutions and create smoother travel experiences. An example is the Traveler Centric Platform designed together with Microsoft that aims to serve any actor in the travel industry who wants to leverage insights to understand travelers better and provide contextualized options. In 2021 we observed good traction with hotels seeing the benefits of this platform to serve their loyal guests with personalized services better.
  • Adding new capabilities to Amadeus Traveler ID, a secure platform for our travel provider customers that connects, digitalizes, and automates traveler identification and document validation across the traveler journey while meeting regulatory requirements. Its module: Traveler ID for Safe Travel provides a secure platform for airlines to offer to their passengers a frictionless way to show that they have the right COVID-19 documentation needed to travel and limit queues at the airport

These are just a couple of examples of how we are helping our customers grow their businesses and be prepared for the future with our cutting-edge technology. 

What future do you expect for companies and innovation, and where are they going to grow? 

Thanks to new technology capabilities, there is a growing need to innovate and the possibility to innovate faster. Just take the whole area of the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled by 5G technology or the real-time availability of data thanks to cloud technology. These two areas alone open up many new possibilities for companies to innovate and deliver value to customers independently of their size.  

In broad terms, I think fostering collaboration and partnerships is growing in importance, and co-creation and co-innovation will become more prevalent as the industry has a shared interest in securing recovery and growth. We need to work together to understand what travelers want and how the travel industry can collaboratively provide the best travel experience possible. 

We need to put the traveler at the center and make their experience safe, practical, and stress-less. What travelers valued in 2019 may be very different from what they will value in 2022 and beyond. This opens up the possibility of new products, new service delivery models, and new revenue opportunities.

We also need to break the silos. The travel industry is and has been, for many years, fragmented. To recover and become resilient to future crises, we need all actors - airlines, airports, governments, hotels, and travel agencies - to work better together. We need to mobilize the full innovation resources of our ecosystem to come up with adapted answers.

Last but not least, we need to foster the emergence of open platforms, enabling cross-fertilization and fast deployment of value across travel stakeholders.

New companies, new ventures What do you think will be the next disruptive technologies of the future, and how will the travel industry benefit? 

Cloud technology

The cloud is an essential enabler for greater digitalization and innovation that will future-proof platforms with smart, flexible systems. It gives the industry the ability to modernize operations, and it provides a foundation upon which many innovations in biometrics, information exchange, and high-performance computing rely. Whether it is airlines building more personalized retailing platforms, airports rolling out biometric check-in, boarding, and immigration, or hotels implementing modern property management systems, the cloud offers the potential for faster and more dynamic implementation. The cloud can also solve data fragmentation and enable data exchange between different travel providers, enabling these to offer their travelers the personalized experiences they expect.

Digitalization and data sharing

Digitalization is a key element of the industry's recovery to meet the demands of travelers for a seamless and contactless journey. With digitalization, it is possible to empower the traveler with the right information and share data across providers to anticipate and not just respond to traveler requirements. It also facilitates the automation of processes such as check-in at airports and hotels and personalized notifications to alert travelers about any disruptions or inspire them with new offers and attractions.

Why should members of the tourism industry participate in meetings like Con-X? 

I believe there is so much potential in the collaboration, and I think we have seen how fundamental the personal interaction is. Surely we have seen we can adapt to a fully virtual world, but we all strive to meet people in person, and therefore, it is important to meet at events like Con-X and discuss great ideas with a wide range of people personally. That makes the difference and is the fundament of innovation.