Today, the Amadeus Total Rail Customer Forum opened here in Sophia Antipolis with a welcome from Francisco Perez-Lazao Ruter, SVP, New Businesses at Amadeus, and an overview of the theme of this year’s Forum – ‘Towards a customer centric industry.’ The presentation set the scene for the morning’s discussion, which continued with a fascinating presentation from Mark Smith, Founder of www.seat61.com on how customers currently view rail travel.
Mark used the example of booking a Paris-Barcelona rail journey to highlight the areas of the booking experience that could be improved for the traveller. His discussion of what is working well for rail, what needs to be improved and how issues such as deregulation are affecting the traveller gave a unique insight into the challenges that the industry must still overcome if it is to improve the customer experience. He pointed out that, crucially, giving the traveller confidence when booking rail that it will be simple is the key to converting viewers into sales. This led into Thomas Drexler, Global Head of Amadeus Rail’s outline of how Amadeus is working to help rail companies face these challenges and succeed in this new era of rail. As well as outlining Amadeus’ technology solutions, Thomas spoke of the need for a strategic, collaborative approach by the entire industry, which was well received by the audience.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to watch demos of the Total Rail solutions, as well as some very interesting prototypes for instant search and door-to-door travel.
Back to the plenary session, customer-centricity and collaboration were discussed in more detail by our expert industry speakers. Holger Taubmann, SVP, Distribution Amadeus, outlined how collaboration with both travel agencies and railways and the Amadeus distribution arm will be win-win for all involved. This was followed by a case study presented by Serafino Lo Piano from Trenitalia. Earlier this year, Trenitalia partnered with Amadeus Rail and today they presented how they expect to see this collaboration drive non-domestic sales.
From collaboration between railways, Amadeus, and travel agencies, the afternoon moved to a discussion of air-rail collaboration. Scheherazade Zekri-Chevallet, Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, Thalys discussed the organisation’s new distribution strategy and its alliances with airlines. As air-rail alliances formed a large part of our last Forum in 2010, it was intriguing to see how this debate has moved on.
Thomas Drexler continued to look to the future in the closing session of the day. He presented interim insights from Rail 2020, a whitepaper that Amadeus will publish in January 2013, which examines the European rail market today, the trends that will shape its development over the next few years, and outlines its expected growth by 2020 dependent on a number of variables.
The day will be rounded off with a well-earned gala dinner at the remarkable Le Park de Mougins. We are looking forward to food, wine, entertainment, and of course discussions of the day past and the day ahead in this stunning venue in the hills above the Riviera. It’s been an informative, thought-provoking day and we are already excited about tomorrow.