The new UK head of Amadeus has barely got her feet under the table, but last week was introducing herself to the UK trade at her first major industry conference.
Champa Magesh spoke to Travolution in the Middle East at the annual Institute of Travel and Tourism conference just six days into her new role.
She said she had not been job hunting when the role at Amadeus came up, but it appealed to her because it had a very clearly defined purpose.
“The investment we are making and the fact that the company has a really clear purpose about what it’s about was really impressive. If there is any commonality, every company I have worked for has had a clear purpose of what they are trying to achieve.
“Amadeus felt like it was a company along the same lines; it has a very clear purpose and it has innovation baked into the purpose.”
Diane Bouzebiba, the previous UK head, left a strong team in place as well as a strategy of being a technology partner offering clients consultancy and strategic planning.
Magesh brings to Amadeus experience of travel management, having previously worked as UK general manager of American Express Business Travel.
Her CV also includes spells at other major travel and technology corporations including Worldpay, when it was RBS-owned, and Cisco Systems.
Magesh said: “I’m still in the phase of assessing the plan in the UK so I’m not in a position of being able to say I’m going to be making a lot of changes.
“In any business you have to think about are we delivering value for all your partners and for the traveller.
“In Amadeus, everything I have seen it’s all about the traveller and all our partners. We are offering value and transparency and as long as we continue to do that I feel comfortable with that.
“Of course tactically you have to do deals but if you want a sustainable business, it’s true of our business and travel agents’, you cannot continue into the future by buying business. For me everything that we do has to add value for our customers.
“From Amadeus’s perspective it’s very clear we need to be helping our customers and improving their productivity. They need to be making more revenue, differentiate themselves, address new customer segments and maybe add new types of content.
“If we are able to deliver services or solutions that do any of that I firmly believe we will be able to get value from that. I don’t believe any of our customers would trust any solution that’s free forever.”
Magesh said Amadeus has a high benchmark for the solutions it develops in terms of ensuring they are fully integrated with the core systems and that does not rule working with third party technology providers.
“We will work with third parties and want to be quick to market but at the same time we do not want to lose sight of the fact that we provide a service to our operators and agents and if what we deliver is not robust and scalable for them what’s the point of being to market quickest?”
Magesh said she was conscious that the UK travel sector is very much a people business and she would be looking to meet customers as well as prospects.
“I really want to understand their feedback and what they would like me to be thinking about, what’s their strategy. What I’m really interested in is how are they looking to make money, how can they be more efficient.
“A lot of what travel agents do is about anthropology, it about human behaviour and in business to business it’s also about people about credibility, about trust, the person you do business with. It’s about me and my team, making sure they feel empowered.
“Our vision is very much that we want to make life easier for agents and we understand the traveller is at the heart of everything we want to do, everything it takes to give choice to our customers and their customers, to give transparency and also for consistency.”
Amadeus remains the number two GDS in the UK behind Travelport which operates BA’s old Galileo system. Magesh said she wanted to see growth but that can be measured in other ways than just market share.
“We definitely want to grow. Does that mean market share, revenue, profitability? Ideally I want everything. Of course we want to keep current customers happy. We want to help them grow.
“We want them to see us as their first choice as technology provider and in terms of new customers we are very keen to talk to anyone who feels we can help them out, anyone who has a business problem they think they can solve with technology.”
As well as new solutions and systems Amadeus is also aware that it needs to help its agency customers with adoption to make sure they are getting full value out if the technology they are already paying for.
“There is no point delivering stuff if agents don’t see value in it,” said Magesh. “Having been a travel agent myself I understand margins are incredibly thin in this industry. Everyone is concerned about commoditisation.
“Our customers are concerned and they are trying to differentiate on so many different angles. Airlines are concerned too which is why they are constantly trying to deliver new products and services.”