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Towards borderless rail travel at the Amadeus Rail Forum: day two

June 16, 2014
Author: Emilien Goudet
Following dinner and wine-tasting at a Viennese heuriger on Thursday evening, the Amadeus Rail Forum continued on Friday with a focus on innovation. Keep on reading to get a recap on the second day of the Amadeus Rail Forum. 

The role of innovation in 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. In support, he cited some illuminating examples of great innovations that didn’t make it to – or make an impact on - the market, such as the Xerox Alto, arguably the first true PC.

He outlined the role of innovation in the travel ecosystem, explaining how the travel industry is changing dramatically because of dramatic changes around it such as big data, a proliferation of devices, the increasing demand for personalization, to name just a few. 
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, Deutsche Bahn’s Mathias Hüske, Francesca Benati from Amadeus Italy, Frédérique Ville from Voyages-SNCF.com, and Matthissa Hahn of ÖBB. The panel has posed the question, “what has been the biggest innovation in travel over the past ten years?’. Although numerous answers were given, there was a consensus that it’s the power of the internet and, more recently, smartphone adoption and mobile that has radically transformed travel.
Next, we looked at 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: for example, to give them the deeper knowledge about passenger behaviour that will allow them to assess air-rail connection potential, plan partnerships and interline agreements, and discover trends in demand for new services. Clement was followed by Christophe Tcheng, Head of Services and Ecosystems for R&D at Amadeus, who focused on key digital trends that rail companies should keep in mind, and Nick Rappolt, of digital marketing agency Beyond, who showcased an example of an effective website re-design by Virgin. 
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 Thomas Drexler, Director of Rail and Ground Travel at Amadeus, 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!”
“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 Thomas Drexler’s reply. “Rail will be much better integrated into the travel ecosystem within the next few years”.
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. Thanks also to those who followed and participated on Twitter at #railforum14. We look forward to seeing the progress made by the time we reconvene at the next Amadeus Rail Forum!


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