Catching up with Amadeus East Africa’s Juan Torres


(Posted 17th January 2014)

(Juan Torres of Amadeus East Africa)

Readers of this publication have, going by the feedback constantly received, a healthy appetite if not outright fascination with the latest technological developments which have over recent years reshaped the way for instance airlines and travel agencies are doing business. Amadeus East Africa a few weeks ago celebrated their 10th anniversary of coming to Eastern Africa and, what is often described as the world’s leading system, providing a tech platform for their users, has taken the market by storm. This correspondent had the opportunity to catch up with Juan Torres, General Manager of Amadeus East Africa, who in an hour long chat explained why in his opinion Amadeus got what it takes to drive innovation, while itself driven by it:

Innovation drives Amadeus East Africa

Many companies equate invention with innovation. But you do not always need an invention for innovation to thrive. Innovation happens in our day-to-day lives, which means looking at devices, business routines, technologies, commercial practices and relationships with a different angle.

The innovation process is one that waits for no-one, which is why Amadeus East Africa is connecting the dots between innovation and market conditions, creating unexpected opportunities, in order to make a tangible behavioural impact on the travel experience, showing a real added value or delivering ‘something new’.

The business has built an enviable position in the travel industry thanks to an unerring commitment to delivering solutions that are relevant to local market conditions and demands.

The East African market is a very exciting space to be in because of the strong adoption of the latest technologies that have leap-frogged many other markets’ saysJuan. ‘This technology-focused approach in the industry reflects the broader acceptance of new technologies, specifically in the mobile field, that we witness in society generally. The rapid rise of mobile payments is but one example of how such technologies are opening up new opportunities for us, and our customers’. As shown in the researchreport conducted by Amadeus in 2013, A Digital Savanah, it is clear that in Africa theprimary screen is that of the mobile phone. This means over 80% of people use mobilepayments.

Torres views mobile as a vast frontier that will deliver even greater innovation in the travel industry that may well extend beyond the traditional services travel agents and their customers are accustomed to.

The adoption of mobile payments already places the region ahead of more mature markets in Europe that may enjoy the benefits of greater Internet penetration, but that lags in mobile payment systems. ‘The advancements we have seen in the mobile arena will undoubtedly lead to the introduction of a broader range of services. There is no

shortage of demand for the immediacy and ease of use the mobile platform can deliver’ says Torres.

A less-explored area in which he sees tremendous opportunity is in big data. This term is bandied about in developed markets as the next big thing, although the understanding of the term or opportunity is not yet fully grasped.

The travel industry generates a lot of information that can and should be harnessed to help improve their operations and services’ added Juan. ‘Drawing on the intelligence within this information, in my opinion, is the next big opportunity and we are working to help our customers tap into that’.

This opportunity lies in being able to easily analyse the habits and preferences of travellers so that services, routes and markets can be adapted and customised to more closely meet local demands. Torres admitted that the market still requires some education around big data and business intelligence, but that this knowledge gap will be filled once the benefits become apparent. He is also a firm believer that innovation happens because of

organisations and the way we work with people. This is a mantra that he applies to the Amadeus East Africa operations and that has led to many of the innovations in the region. For example, the Amadeus Transhotel system

has been adapted to suit the needs of the local industry rather than simply taking this global solution and foisting it on the market. Juan ended in saying: ‘In a similar fashion, we expect to deliver exciting new mobile solutions that draw on the strong adoption of this technology throughout the region. In doing so, our customers will be able to better meet the needs of their customers’.