Improving the technology that drives the travel industry
Although today’s tourists take it for granted that they can book hotels, flights and cruises online, the search process can often be complicated, slow, daunting and confusing. But European researchers are working to improve the information technology driving the travel industry, and a €200 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), with financial backing from the European Union, helps to develop new innovations that make bookings much easier.
The loan is for Amadeus, a travel technology group specialising in computerised booking systems and IT platforms for travel providers. It will help boost the group’s existing research and development efforts around high performance transaction processing, information mining from very large databases, and super-responsive travel search engines.
Amadeus is one of the largest R&D investors in the European Union, investing €414 million - equivalent to 14% of its revenues – in 2012, and a total of €2.4 billion since 2004. The group, headquartered in Madrid, has 16 R&D centres globally, with over 4,000 of its 10,000 employees working on R&D.
The EIB loan under the Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), a joint European Commission-EIB programme for RDI projects, will mainly support research on distribution: improving Amadeus’s existing international network of comprehensive real-time search, pricing, booking, ticketing and other processing solutions to travel providers and travel agencies. That includes developing new functionalities to facilitate the booking of other content such as hotels, car rental, rail or cruises.
The research loan supports Amadeus in developing IT solutions: services centred on streamlining the operational and distribution requirements of its diverse customer base, especially airlines. It will build on the research that produced Amadeus’s flagship programme, Altéa Suite. This is a community platform for passenger management that automates certain mission-critical business processes such as reservations, inventory management and departure control.
“We are making it easier for citizens to access the content of the different travel providers, bringing more information, and hence, more transparency to the shopping process,” says Francisco Urbano, Amadeus’s Director Group Treasury and Corporate Finance, when asked about the broader impact on citizens across Europe. “By aggregating big amounts of content into one single shopping place, the consumer has a greater choice and can complete a more satisfactory shopping process based on multiple criteria like price, convenience and preferences,” explains Urbano.
Urbano says the research will ultimately ensure smoother customer service. “Through our IT Solutions business unit, we are making travel providers more effective and improving the way they engage with travellers,” he says. “From mobile boarding passes and itinerary tracking to self-drop baggage services, Amadeus powers a big number of the IT systems behind the airlines, reducing the hassle and stress that travelling can sometimes create,” he adds.
Although the EIB loan is to support Amadeus’ long-term research Amadeus is already able to announce results in its IT systems for the hotel sector, which also includes implementing the first hotel IT platform in Europe for a major European hotel chain. The research is also helping the group modernise IT systems for airports, which includes the provision of services to ground handlers. And for airlines, Amadeus research is creating products such as Revenue Accounting, which airlines such as British Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines have already signed contracts to migrate onto.
The research will eventually deliver beneficial effects at every level: customers will gain direct access to a greater amount of information and vendors will improve products in a world of growing competition and customer sophistication. “Our continued investment in technology allows European and global travel agencies and travel providers, like airlines, hotels or railways, to have robust, future-proof systems to run their operations and to enhance the distribution of their offering to customers around the globe,” Urbano concludes.