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Cross Border Rail Europe at the fifth Amadeus Rail Forum

June 20, 2014
Author: Thomas Drexler

The fifth edition of the Amadeus Rail Forum took place for the first time in Vienna. Over 140 rail companies and travel seller executives joined us to discuss and debate what railways, travel sellers, and technology companies need to do in the coming years to make cross border rail europe a reality, the theme of the Forum. 

WESTBahn: Austrian innovation  

The Forum opened with a welcome message from Dr Erich Forster, CEO of WESTbahn, who presented some of the innovative approaches WESTbahn is taking to achieve competitive differentiation: from selling tickets in tobacconists’ shops in order to reach older travellers, to focusing on customer service with high numbers of onboard staff.

WESTbahn is a great example of a new entrant that is making an impact on the Austrian rail market following liberalisation.

Cross Border Rail: still a pending matter 

However, it’s clear that there is still a great deal of work to do if the industry is to make the most of open borders. A video presented on day one by Amadeus’ Philip Martin and Katrin Heintschel from the rail marketing team outlined the various stages of their journey by rail from Antibes in the south of France, to the Rail Forum itself in Vienna – highlighting the difficulties travellers still face when travelling across borders by rail.

From planning and researching journey options using online travel agents, rail websites, and visiting rail ticket offices; through to booking and setting off on the train, it was clear just how confusing, complex and time-consuming the rail booking experience can be for travellers.

Amadeus Rail Forum

 

Taking a look into customer satisfaction

We were also treated to a thought-provoking presentation from Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group. Sutherland gave the audience something new to consider in a speech focused on human behaviour, psychology and perception, arguing that you don’t always need to make a huge change or investment, to reap huge benefit – smaller changes can also make an impact. He cited allowing customers to pre-book space at a pre-existing station car park, as an example of how a small change to a service or process can make an enormous difference to customer perception and satisfaction: not being sure if you’ll be able to park your car before taking the train might deter some travellers from using rail altogether.

 

Technology AND innovation SHAPING THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL

Thursday afternoon was dedicated to the Technology Showcase, giving the opportunity to delegates to see and touch Amadeus' latest rail solutions. The innovation corner was all about solutions of the future that could really make an impact on the travel experience, whether it is about predicting travel trends of tomorrow with travel intelligence, or about personalising offers according to individual customer profiles and behaviours. We also had the opportunity to watch live demos of existing rail booking solutions already available in several markets, such as our unique Amadeus Air-Rail Display, featuring train services alongside flights in a single display, or our dedicated rail booking solution, Amadeus Rail Display

Amadeus Rail Forum Technology Showcase

On Friday, the Amadeus Rail Forum continued with a focus on innovation to shape the future of rail travel. Amadeus’ Murray Mazer, Head of Innovation and Research, presented the key aspects of successful innovation, explaining that it’s not enough simply to have a vision – a channel to market is necessary to deliver on value.

Mazer’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion on innovation and technology in the travel industry and, specifically, the rail sector, where he was joined by Amadeus’ Francisco Pérez-Lozao Rüter and Francesca Benati from Amadeus Italy, as well as representatives from Deutsche Bahn, Voyages-SNCF.com, and ÖBB. Although diverse ideas were discussed, there was a consensus that the internet – and, more recently, mobile technology – has powered the greatest and most radical innovations in travel in recent years, simplifying travellers’ lives.

Amadeus Rail Forum speaker

From the past decade to the future

The next focus was on big data and the transformational power it could have for the global travel industry. Pascal Clement, Head of Travel Intelligence at Amadeus, explained how big data could be used by railways: whether it’s to give them the deeper knowledge about passenger behaviour that will allow them to assess air-rail connection potential, plan partnerships and interline agreements, or discover trends in demand for new services.

Pascal Clement, Head of Travel Intelligence at Amadeus

 

The 2014 Forum ended on a high, with ‘The Big Debate’ as the final session. Moderated by Christopher Clarke from Kwittken, representatives from eBookers, WESTbahn, Thalys and BeNe Rail International joined The Man in Seat 61 and myself to debate what borderless rail travel really means, and how it can best be achieved. It was clear that it means different things to different people:

“Borderless rail travel is about focusing on how the traveller gets from A to B, not on the products they buy” opined one panelist; another thought that “it’s about a seamless customer experience”; and one took another position altogether: “the borders we need to cross are not technical or even geographic – they’re in our heads!”

Amadeus Rail Forum debate

“Are you optimistic that there will be a significant change in the next five years?” asked Christopher Clarke, in conclusion. “I’m not optimistic – I’m convinced!” was my reply. “Rail will be much better integrated into the travel ecosystem within the next few years, and the whole travel process will become easier and faster”.

Thank you to all our speakers and everyone who joined us over the course of the event, which saw such a great variety of opinions and ideas – it’s clear that there is a bright future for the rail sector. We look forward to seeing the progress made by the time we reconvene at the next Amadeus Rail Forum!

 

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