The fifth Amadeus Rail Forum opened on Thursday morning in a brand new location - a very sunny Vienna, Austria - with a welcome from Dr Erich Forster, CEO of Westbahn. Dr Forster kicked off proceedings by presenting some of the innovative approaches Westbahn are taking to achieve competitive differentiation: from selling tickets in tobacconists’ shops in order to reach older travellers, to focusing on customer service with dedicated on-board staff. Westbahn is a great example of a rail company that is seizing the initiative to make the most of the market opportunity presented by liberalisation – and as such it was a fitting welcome, since the theme of this year’s event is ‘towards borderless rail travel’. Over the two days of the Forum, we’ll be looking at how rail companies can break down barriers to growth in a rapidly changing industry.
A video presented by Amadeus’ Philip Martin and Katrin Heintschel showed the conference exactly what some of these borders might be, outlining the various stages of the Amadeus rail marketing team’s journey by rail from Antibes in the south of France, to the Rail Forum itself in Vienna – crossing three countries and many miles! 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 the shopping and booking experience can be for travellers when it comes to long-distance rail, and what the challenges to address are. We really look forward to continuing to discuss this subject throughout the Forum.
Thomas Drexler, Amadeus’ Director of Rail and Ground Travel, updated the crowd on Amadeus Total Rail, explaining how Amadeus is helping rail companies and travel sellers to connect with, serve and manage their customers and partners. He was followed by Holger Taubmann, SVP, Distribution at Amadeus, who looked at wider, macro-economic and industry trends that will shape – and are already shaping - rail distribution needs.
The morning session concluded with a thought-provoking presentation by Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group, who gave the audience something new to consider with his focus on human behaviour, as he argued that you don’t always need to make a huge change or investment, to reap huge benefit. 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.
We continued in the afternoon with an opportunity to see Amadeus solutions in action in a technology showcase, as well as a series of “15 minutes with…” the morning’s speakers – giving delegates a chance to ask questions and further discuss the subjects of the morning’s presentations.