Amadeus is the leader in technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry. The company facilitates the entire travel journey from door-to-door, with a focus on improving the travel experience for hundreds of millions of people every year. Operating in 195 countries, Amadeus technology keeps the travel sector moving around the world – from initial search to making a booking, from pricing to ticketing, from managing reservations to managing check-in and departure processes. Amadeus is also largest processor of travel transactions, each year processing upwards of 948 million key billed travel transactions worldwide.
That means Amadeus’ R&D teams need to develop and maintain some of the travel industry’s most critical systems in the areas of global distribution services and airline passenger services systems. They also deliver leading solutions that use data analytics and intelligence, fare search and optimization, hotel, rail, web services and ancillary systems for Amadeus’ airline and travel agency customers worldwide.
We sat down with Rashesh Jethi, SVP and Head of R&D for Americas to learn more about innovation and technology development at Amadeus.
What is your role and the mission of your team at Amadeus?
I joined Amadeus about a year ago to head the R&D team focused on the Americas region. My team’s mission is product engineering, implementation and support for our customers and innovation with internal teams, customers, and key academic industry partners. Amadeus pioneered the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model almost 30 years ago, and we are continuing to lead the innovation in the travel technology industry with cloud services.
Amadeus is a truly global company with headquarters in Spain and a large engineering center in France, but we have significantly expanded our footprint in North America over the past few years. Boston is our biggest R&D center for the Americas region, and we have offices in a dozen cities across the USA, Canada and Latin America.
What are your main areas of focus and specific innovation you are looking for?
We look for innovation in all areas of technology and certainly anything directly related to the travel industry. At the engineering level, we are constantly looking at innovations that enable hyper scaling to handle the ever increasing transaction volumes we see in the search and shopping areas. We also experiment with tools and technologies that improve the software development process and enable more and more of our applications to be Cloud-ready. Travel intelligence is another areas of focus, to help our customers with better data analytics.
What are the disruptions you are dealing with in the travel industry?
There are several business model disruptions in the travel industry, such as the rise of the sharing economy. Ride sharing services such as Uber is disrupting taxis and car rentals, and Airbnb is competing strongly with traditional hotels. Amadeus plays a strategic role in the travel ecosystem, and we stay focused on how we can best enable a traveler’s journey from Point A to B. For example, when someone books travel they often visit many different websites to book flights, accommodation, local transport and destination activities– there will be a natural aggregation and easier way to book all of these services. As a B2B tech company we are trying to make life easier for our travel industry customers and travelers. So when we see some of these new market players becoming suppliers and thus becoming a valuable part of the accommodation and travel ecosystem, we do think about how we can integrate their offerings into ours.
What strategy has Amadeus adopted to stay competitive and continue offering valuable services to your customers?
Our simple approach is to stay close to our customers. If we understand their needs, their pain points, how their business is evolving, what travelers need and want, we can help them better and always be their valuable technology and business partner. Our teams have deep expertise not just in the technology we use but also in the business we serve, and that combination helps us to always be developing not just the best technology but the right technology for our industry.
There is a lot of technical sophistication required in our business to serve our customers reliably. We handle almost 2 million traveler bookings a day, and at peak times some of our systems handle thousands of transactions every second! Very few companies handle transaction volume at the scale we do, and so we collaborate and share ideas with some of the largest tech companies by actively contributing to the open source community.
What is your open innovation strategy?
We have a strong technology team that is always open to test-driving and adopting emerging technologies via pilot projects and prototypes. We also know it is critical to nurture ideation and innovation. We have an internal innovation team that regularly holds hackathons where employees can compete and submit new ideas. We also have built strong partnerships with academic labs, think-tanks and leading universities so we always have a healthy exchange and flow of fresh ideas and approaches.
What about partnerships and collaboration with startups? How do you engage with them?
Over the past few years, we have actively started engaging with startups in several ways.
We offer an Innovation Sandbox which enables a startup to bring to life their ideas via rapid prototypes using travel industry transaction flows available through our published and easily accessible Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Amadeus for Startups is a dedicated program we launched just over a year ago in North America. For many startups, breaking into the travel industry and understanding the technology needed can be complex and complicated This program connects travel entrepreneurs with Amadeus’ technology and expertise so they can deliver their unique value proposition with direct access to a distribution platform that is used by the largest travel supplies and buyers.
We also have a dedicated Ventures team that encourages and nurtures innovation in the travel space via strategic investments and partnerships.
We hope that startups in the travel space, and beyond, will think of us and partner with us to build and offer interesting products and services to over one billion people whose journeys our technology helps power every year.