Amadeus Next’s Bart Bellers Talks Travel Tech

Yen Lim
Former Chief Product Officer

Bart Bellers – Senior Advisor, Corporate Strategy, Amadeus Asia Pacific

For the last 12 months, Bart has been driving the Amadeus Next programme in Asia Pacific along with his team. During this time it has successfully grown from inception to launch, and scaled to where it is today. It has also pivoted along the way and truly acts “like a startup within Amadeus”. A key focus moving forward is to grow the Amadeus Next community further and deliver on its promise to deliver real value to the startups and partners involved.

Since joining the world’s leading travel tech company back in 2003, Bart held a variety of roles before relocating to Bangkok, Thailand where he is based today.

Prior to Amadeus, Bart founded his own consulting business, worked for several startups and successfully led commercial and e-business projects at the leading edge of internet technology. Back in 2000, he co-created and led the world’s first, SAAS based, integrated supply chain for the ICT industry with customers like Hewlett Packard, SAP and Coca-Cola.

Pragmatic and results oriented, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and technology background, Bart is an early adopter of the Lean Startup methodology and committed to take startups to the next level. A passionate out-of-the-box thinker, the fusion of ‘Think Different’ and ‘Just Do It’ is what he believes in.

Read on for our Q&A with Bart to learn more about Amadeus Next and why PredictHQ became part of the community.

What is the ultimate vision of your business and why is it important?

Way back in 1987, Amadeus was created to solve a common problem shared by airlines; how to sell seats more easily, more internationally and more cost effectively. Amadeus created the solution. It was about innovation and great technology then – and it still is today.

Today Amadeus provides the technology which keeps the travel sector moving – from initial search to making a booking, from pricing to ticketing, from managing reservations to handling check-in and departure processes. Our business has expanded to touch all areas of travel, from providing content to travel agencies, to the IT which powers airlines, railways and hotels. Our goal is to shape the future of travel along with our customers and partners. This includes startups and is one of the reasons why we launched Amadeus Next.

The travel industry is broader than ever before, the traveller is more demanding and technology continues to evolve rapidly. No one player in the travel industry can do it all alone and collaboration is key.

With Amadeus Next we do exactly that, we collaborate. We work together with startups to evolve new and original ideas in travel by leveraging our technology, expertise, reach and funding. Amadeus Next also serves as the driving force to build and foster the leading travel tech community in APAC by connecting startups with like-minded partners and people who are equally as excited about travel technology, and looking to challenge the status quo.

What have you achieved since launching Amadeus Next?

We’ve actually just celebrated our first Anniversary! You can see some of the key results and the growth of Amadeus Next we’ve achieved in the infographic below.

So far there’s 30 startups and 51 partners on board the programme, all working towards driving travel tech innovation forward.

What advice would you give a business that’s thinking about getting into travel tech?

If they’re already looking into travel tech then they’re on the right path! The sheer size of the industry is not something to be overlooked. According to Technavio research, the global travel technology market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of around 8% over the course of the next three years, to reach a massive $12.21 billion. Asia Pacific is a region that is seeing tremendous growth and experiencing a travel boom with the rise of a more affluent middle class, and lower cost of travel. Travel also contributes for approximately 10% of GDP globally so the opportunity is huge.

New players should also acknowledge the amount of recognised, large big players in the industry and instead of competing with them it’s often better to build complementary solutions. Perhaps a company starts off with a B2C idea but there are often synergies which existing big players would benefit from, so ultimately it’s about being open to pivot to a B2B model. This is also what Amadeus Next is enabling by connecting travel tech startups to some of our largest customers in the region.

And of course, my final piece of advice is to make sure you’re in Amadeus Next! As a leading travel tech community in Asia Pacific, it gives startups access to the technology, expertise, and reach of the leading travel technology company in the world as well as access to different funding partners.

Where is travel tech going in the future?

Travellers of today are becoming savvier and better informed. No two travellers are the same and no two journeys are the same. Their expectations have moved past personalisation and they now expect travel providers to be more timely and intuitive. Travel and its elements of surprise, magic and wonder have thus become increasingly challenging to achieve.

Travel players that can understand travellers down to the individual level and cater to their needs in an intuitive, timely manner will earn steadfast loyalty in an increasingly competitive landscape. Knowing the traveller, inspiring them, delighting them, talking to them, connecting them and caring for them will be the six key mandates for the industry. And technology will be our best ally.

In the past 12 months these traveller demands have added fuel to a number of trends that we refer to as the ‘Power of Five’ which we think will have a huge impact on travel in the coming years. The Power of Five includes the Internet of Things, Virtual & Augmented Reality, Sharing Economy 2.0, Chat & Bots and Smart Cities.

How can data influence the Power of Five trends?

Data in travel is increasingly important as it allows the industry to deliver on what I mentioned earlier about knowing the traveller, inspiring them and delivering on their desire for personalisation. Having said that, data in itself is worth nothing, it’s all about making sense out of the data and making it relevant for the user. It’s about offering the right product at the right time to the right customer. This comes from historic data, real-time data as well as future predictions.

Why did you take PredictHQ into the Amadeus Next community?

Events present a real challenge for businesses. They impact on business’s demand and supply, creating major peaks and troughs for airlines, hotels, car rentals etc. At the moment, the industry has anecdotal event visibility where revenue managers might only know of some big individual events but they miss out on others. There’s also no visibility of clustering. What we found interesting about PredictHQ is that they don’t only aggregate the data about the different events happening around the world but they standardise, de-duplicate and enrich events with additional data so they can also rank them – making them more meaningful.

For the travel industry this can be incredibly powerful as it allows you to tailor your offer to best suit your customer but also to have the most profitable outcome. Imagine an airline which knew that in Hong Kong on a given weekend there was a Rugby Match and a U2 concert taking place. The combination of these two events could be much desired by some travellers, and in turn it allows the airline to charge a higher price for the flight to get them there! This type of revenue management practice is a key focus for airlines and PredictHQ helps them make it happen. And let’s not forget the great team at PredictHQ! Without great people, a strong drive and bundles of passion, an idea alone is worth nothing.

Connect with Amadeus Next and Bart