Amadeus reorganizes its business incubator to discover Travel Tech’s next generation products – Skift
Want personalized travel alerts sent to your WhatsApp? Need your biometric “keys” hosted in a secure application? Or do you want your hotelier to digitally send you tips on what to see and what to do locally – once you can go on vacation again?
Here are some of the questions asked by Amadeus. The Madrid-based company wants to expand its ways of making money. So she quietly unveiled Nexwave, a business incubator that identifies promising ideas and cultivates the next generation of the company’s products, Skift learned.
“The pandemic has highlighted how Amadeus can contribute to the travel industry by connecting the dots and ensuring that our industry can better collaborate in a systematic way,” said Marion Mesnage, director of Nexwave.
Nexwave, a unit of just over 100 employees, incubates product features and functionality. The aspiration is to find new businesses that will expand the travel tech giant’s revenue streams beyond distribution and operating software.
The pandemic has sharpened the team’s thematic interests. The team is now focused on products that keep travelers informed, help consumers travel safely, and help travelers connect to the most meaningful aspects of local destinations. He began testing new tools with travelers, such as automating the process of sharing traveler health data and helping hoteliers deliver meaningful activities to guests at a destination.
Traveler ID is a service that digitizes the identity verification process. Airlines and airports today struggle to cope with long lines of passengers as agents manually confirm health status certifications.
At the end of April, the Spanish airline Air Europa became the first airline to fly Traveler ID. The technological capability allows passengers to certify that they have the required health documentation at check-in while remaining on an airline’s website or app. This reduces the manual labor of the traveler and the airline.
The capacity is plugged into the airline’s computer system, making self-service check-in possible. During the tests, Air Europa passengers traveling to Spain can use an online form to confirm that they hold the required health documents.
“We have also seen significant traction for the solution with other customers,” Mesnage said. “We will be increasing it with new features in the coming weeks.”
The planned updates will allow travelers to scan and download documents for automated verification, such as QR codes shared by laboratories, national health departments and health platform providers. The plan is to sync with digital health wallets such as CommonPass. (See Skift’s story, Why Digital Health Passports Still Need To Gain More Trust.)
Another Nexwave project is Feasy. It is a consumer-oriented “digital concierge” that communicates with travelers through messaging services such as WhatsApp or Messenger.
“Feasy is a digital assistant for travelers,” Mesnage said. “It provides a traveler with information or services that will be useful given their context.”
“Let’s say you have a flight tomorrow,” Mesnage said. “Before leaving for the airport, we will offer you an airport transfer that you can book with one click.”
The digital message will be relevant to today’s random emails from vendors, Mesnage argued. The company will know the customer’s address, the airport terminal from which they will depart, the distance to get there, as well as the traffic reports. It will also have a good estimate of a customer’s receptiveness to thinking about booking a given add-on, taking into account the stage a traveler is at during a trip.
Amadeus is now bringing the concepts to CheckMyTrip, its traveler’s digital assistant typically used by business travelers.
“We’re bringing the same level of interactivity and contextualized push notifications into CheckMyTrip,” Mesnage said.
The company plans to make the technology available to travel agencies who want to integrate logic into their own branded applications.
In another move, Nexwave has partnered with Riskline to add Covid-19 information to Amadeus Mobile Messenger, the enterprise risk management solution for businesses. Riskline tracks travel advisories and related pandemic information, and Amadeus’ new solution makes this information available through its corporate online booking tool, Amadeus cytric Travel & Expense and its Amadeus Selling Platform Connect service.
Amadeus launches into aggregation of circuits and experiences
Another product that the Nexwave team is incubating is Amadeus Sherpa, which aims to help hoteliers use digital tools to advise their guests on truly local activities. He’s digging Amadeus’ toes into an area he’s never been before – namely, helping to distribute local travel experiences.
Amadeus Sherpa is a business-to-business service for connecting, bundling and distributing local tours, activities and other travel experiences. Amadeus partners with BookingKit and other providers of booking software for tour operators, which serve as channel managers to deliver operator content. Amadeus charged a 5% commission on bookings paid during the testing phase.
“We have a good base of early adopters for our solution,” Mesnage said. “We are preparing to welcome our first guests.”
But lockdowns and the slow return of travel to key markets of Germany, France and Spain have delayed testing, she said.
Amadeus Sherpa needs consumer feedback to find the best ways for hotels to deliver local experiences to guests. The best channel might be by email right after a traveler books a room. Or it could rather be at the hotel. In this case, Amadeus Sherpa and the hotel should place QR codes around the property so that guests can scan for more information once they have arrived. Or the hotel concierge might need to hand guests tablets with recommendations from Amadeus Sherpa.
“We have inventoried around 150 solutions around the world, and each of them has a regional specificity or access to the inventory by type of activity,” said Mesnage. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to connect vendors using these solutions to our business audience.”
Amadeus refines its approach to innovation
Nexwave is a broad attempt to institutionalize the search for ideas that make money. The attempt began with the creation in 2016 of a small research and innovation unit.
Before the team was formed, Amadeus’ innovation efforts tended to be technology-centric.
Since the formation of the team, Amadeus has refined its focus on innovation from major emerging technological themes such as the Internet of Things to understanding the specific needs of customers that its partners see as urgent.
The innovation team then identifies growth opportunities and helps align the product roadmaps of the group’s business units. Some developments may end up hybridizing, but the incubation effort attempts to take a structured approach to innovation. The goal is to help good ideas find their way to commercialization against the weight of siled thinking.
Other companies in the travel industry have recently built innovation incubation units. An example of a model is the Lufthansa Group. Sometimes when Lufthansa Innovation Hub decides not to turn an idea into a new subsidiary, it is free to try it out and seek outside funding.
Mesnage said Amadeus has yet to decide whether he will let his innovation team do something similar. In the meantime, his team is currently recruiting software developers to create travel products.
Note: Nexwave is a separate, though complementary, effort of Amadeus Ventures, the company’s corporate venture capital arm, which invests in outside startups.
Between the two efforts, Amadeus is banking on innovation and cooperation with startups as a way to create new products for customers that fill market gaps while widening the technological divide with its rivals.
“We see that our mission is to develop the next wave of travel companies that will shape the travel experience of today and tomorrow,” said Mesnage.
Photo credit: The Amadeus Executives Information Center in Bangkok, Thailand. Amadeus