tnoozLIVE@TTE: Amadeus’ Michael Bayle on mobile trends and launching on Alexa

This is the continuation of a series of articles spun out of tnoozLIVE@TTE, recorded live at the TTE event Olympia, London. More clips to come! To learn more about how to bring tnoozLIVE@ to your event, please email Ella Sopp.

Michael Bayle, head of mobile for Amadeus, took the time during TTE to chat mobile travel trends with tnooz managing editor Linda Fox. Bayle reveals the company’s plans to increasingly bring mobile into its corporate travel tools and make more ancillaries available via devices.

Full transcript follows:

Linda:  Hi we’re back at TTE with tnoozLIVE and. I’m joined by Michael Bayle.  He’s head of mobile at Amadeus.  Thanks for joining us Michael.  Can we start with talking about what Amadeus’ priorities are for the year when it comes to mobile?

Michael:  Yes.  This year is a formidable year for us. We have two big things on the roadmap.  So, first and foremost we’re incorporating our approach in corporate IT into our mobile solutions. So, more specifically speaking, in the past, we focused very much in travel agencies and we had our tools accordingly as a result.  This year, we are embedding some of the corporate IT functionality, that is  otherwise know as Citrix, and incorporating it inside Amadeus mobile.  Secondly and equally as importantly, we’re launching a slew of ancillaries, both GDS and non-GDS ancillaries so the end traveler can purchase very easily on mobile devices, any kind of experience they wish to have.

Linda:  So, one of the areas that always strikes me as where there’s money left on the table is in disruption. I know that some years ago Amadeus had an app around disruption and then backed away from that to prioritise in other areas but you must be exploring in this area?

Michael:  Yes, we have been. You’re alluding to something we launched at Phocuswright I believe, and that was with our peers in the airline side on opportunities to do disruption management through mobile, which is a natural location to have this. We are looking at piloting that in 2018 as well on the distribution side. We don’t have any announcements yet to make but it’s something we’re exploring. It’s a challenging endeavour because upstream, there are so many sources whether the booking was through Amadeus or through our peer competitor groups, is part of the catalyst of how you can handle a disruption or not.  It’s something that we’re exploring.

Linda:  So, watch the space on that one then. Okay, so what about voice? I mean voice is being predicted as huge, kind of seismic changes, a bit like when the internet first came. What do you think?

Michael: Yeah, you’ve hit a bit of a shudder bone here in a good way. We embrace voice, we love voice. We believe about 20% of all travel will be booked through your voice at some point in time, not through the screen.  As an example of that, we’ve actually partnered with Amazon in Germany initially, and we’ve launched a proof of concept on the Alexa store. So, Alexa calls those programs skills and one of the skills now available in beta is Check My Trip.  So through your voice, both in German and in English, you can access Check My Trip itineraries, you can interact with Check My Trip, all through your voice, and it’s something for which we think there’ll be incredible innovation.

It was the most popular product sold in Christmas season in the US, at least, Alexa. We know it’s only currently available still in the US, UK, and Germany but beginning to advance in more markets and is something that has extreme potential in travel particularly if you’re multitasking.  So, you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, do you know what time is my flight, am I on time or not, can I book an ancillary, can I book at Uber, all through your voice, it will be very important.

Linda: So, how quickly do you think voice is going to actually kind of permeate in the same way as mobile devices have or other technologies?

Michael:  It’s one of those, if you have it,  you don’t have the same experience without it. What I mean by this, many hotel chains now in the States, you’re seeing many, led by Las Vegas, little Echo devices being in the rooms. And arguably, most of them are for remote controlling lights, music, things that are otherwise you could use with tactile on your finger.  But once you get into content, once  you get that morning NPR which is the news programming of the States, BBC here in the UK, you wish for this.  When you return back to your home and perhaps you don’t have it, so you live in France, you live in Spain, the markets where Alexa is not supported, you miss this. So, similarly, we believe once you are voice influenced your expectation is to be able to interact with things with your voice and when there’s a void there, you’re gonna criticize and be requiring of it. Very much like nowadays you go to a screen and try to tap it and it doesn’t have any ability to expect your finger, that’s a problem because we’re so accustomed to tapping and scrolling. So, I think our voice is being programmed that once it is programmed successfully, when you don’t have it, you’re missing something. There’s a void there.

Linda:  At some point does voice supersede chat or is there space for both?

Michael:  So I think voice is a conduit to chat. Chat is something I prefer today. It’s one of the reasons why I still believe mobile is something you could use while you’re doing something else and you can be burdened by listening to a panel or by being on a metro, and actually typing something away.  With voice, you have to have a dedicated focus. You need to have not a whistle in the background, not some noise that’s challenging you when you can make some sentence that’s interpretable. So, voice, I believe, ultimately gets translated to text.  That text communication is sent to a server. There’s some understanding with artificial intelligence or natural language processing into native language, and then there’s a response and the response can go back from text to voice as we know through Siri or Alexa’s voice, Alexa, and whatever Google home’s equivalent there after this.

Linda:  There still seems to be quite a gap in terms of the theory and what we are used to doing with our mobile devices everyday in our everyday lives and the practise of doing that in our business travel lives. How close are we going to get, maybe this year,  to closing that gap?

Michael:  Already in chat I believe the airlines have really led this. Look at KLM, they’re one of the first airlines to not only adopt chat in their major platforms of Facebook Messenger and the Asian ones like WeChat but they also were the first in the WhatsApp program which is beginning to introduce itself to businesses as well. Thereafter, from voice, I believe that no one is a winner right now. The real winner is honestly Amazon and Alexa.  They have proven though that once you understand voice for your home, let’s say, and at least in an American culture, your home is where you frequently purchase groceries and now which you can frequently repeat purchase groceries with two-hour delivery with Amazon prime all through your voice.  They have shown definitively that once you use your voice to purchase, there is an increase in conversion.

I think travel sellers have to look at that fact and then adapt to it to understand “okay”, will you see that same frequency or repetitive purchase in travel as you do in your local daily life, not necessarily.  But some things most certainly. For taxis and transfers, for concert tickets, for a restaurant reservation, using voice to quickly check is their availability and to actually confirm, is much easier and smoother than using your fingers and your thumbs.

Related reading:

tnoozLIVE@TTE: Travelport’s Simon Ferguson on voice, traveller engagement and human contact

Image Jaelynn Castillo via Unsplash

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda worked at tnooz from September 2011 to June 2018 in roles including senior reporter, deputy editor and managing editor.



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  1. Kiran

    Great article


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