A little over a year ago, we embarked on a new journey towards a door-to-door European travel space: the Amadeus-led consortium ‘All Ways Travelling’ (AWT) was appointed by the European Commission (EC) to explore the feasibility for the emergence of a multi-modal information and booking system.
AWT’s core objective is to evaluate both the market and technological dimensions of this system, with the ultimate goal of delivering a streamlined and pain-free experience to passengers as they travel across borders and transport modes. In other words, it is intended to make the whole travel process much simpler by allowing searching, booking and travelling between European origin and destination cities, such as Amsterdam to Rome, in as few clicks, changes, hours and headaches as possible.
The project has now reached its first milestone, the completion of phase 1; meaning the study of multi-modality has been delivered by Zeppelin University, a member of the consortium, and validated by the EC. Beyond sharing a few highlights, I’d like to take a step back and check the travel industry’s progress in reaching the EC’s vision. At this point in time, it’s clear that we are still at the dawn phase where industry players are slowly (and sometimes timidly) starting to think with their multi-modal hat on, even though it has been the buzz word lately in the travel industry.
We have seen isolated pockets of this vision – take for instance the fruit of the collaboration of German airports and railways (Deutsche Bahn), where it is quite easy to travel anywhere in Germany (or even its neighbours) directly from Frankfurt or Munich airports. Railways in Belgium allow their passengers to use their rail tickets in the metro as well. But an integrated pan-European approach is still just a vision.
The study shows that the concept of multi-modality works quite effectively within urban areas. For years, we have conveniently swiped our single urban transport card in any metro, bus or tram we have boarded. Once out of the city though, things get a little trickier, and crossing borders takes on a whole new level of complexity as we encounter a myriad of different transport providers with their own systems, searching and booking channels, ticketing types and methods, travel retail services, and the list goes on. Interconnecting all of these is the next big step.
The good news is, technologically, there is no obstacle in our path: today it is viable to interline air, with rail, metro, bus, tram, and more, allowing them to talk to each other in the same language.
Should travellers pay to have a more seamless trip though?
The study featured a survey whether European passengers would be willing to pay some additional euros for a seamless, interlined long-distance trip, and the majority responded negatively. This fact will push providers to find new opportunities of monetization, as it clearly won’t work out if the burden is placed on the traveller. As a result, new business models are likely to emerge, creating new jobs, and adding new life into the industry.
The foundations for change in the European travel system have already been placed and Amadeus is right in the front line. We have laid the seeds in rail with our community IT platform already, and what we have seen at the last Amadeus Rail Forum has been reassuring with the growing urge to make this happen.
The pressure is on to compete with emerging markets such as China and Saudi Arabia already delivering hugely ambitious transport plans where all steps of the journey are designed to be seamlessly integrated – so the European Commission is more than eager to make this a reality – the question is how can we all get together to get there?