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6 Jul, 2009

Abacus, Amadeus Chart Out Target Markets

New product announcements by two of the Asia Pacific region’s leading travel technology companies indicate how they are seeking out new opportunities in times of total flux in the travel & tourism industry. Singapore-based Abacus is targeting small & medium sized travel agents while Madrid-based Amadeus, which has a regional office in Bangkok, is targeting corporate travellers.

Like all industry sectors, travel technology companies are facing “new stresses” in an age of proliferating travel websites, direct bookings and cost-cutting by both travellers and companies. At the same time, Amadeus and Abacus themselves are coming under pressure from airlines to lower their booking fees.

So far, however, they have maintained the B2B strategy of providing technological solutions for their thousands of corporate and users in the travel industry, rather than become B2C operators and go direct to the customers, which will effectively make them competitors with their own clients.

New stresses such as security concerns and health screening have created new opportunities for efficient usage of travel technologies.

At the same time, much comfort taken in the fact that even as travellers have more opportunities than ever to seek out the lowest prices, the industry still badly needs well-trained travel agents, hotel and airline staff who can attend to customers “supported by trusted technology.”

Hence, the new products.

Amadeus says its new suite of mobile solutions, set to be unveiled soon, has been designed to enhance safety and security of business travellers, and provide them with efficient approval workflow and itinerary-based location information upon demand. All are based on the findings of joint research with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives last year which evaluated the mobile needs of corporations.

Workable on all the major mobile operating systems such as Windows Mobile, Symbian and BlackBerry, the new solutions are designed to help the business traveller be more productive and efficient while on the road as well as to help companies boost their business during this period of financial crisis.

Travellers will be able store complete itineraries on their mobile device, get push-button access to flight schedules, hotel addresses and check-in information. They will be able to do this while abroad without incurring any roaming fees, a critical requirement in these days of heavy-duty cost-cutting by corporations.

One additional function for travel approvers within a company will allow them to confirm or reject trips while on-the-go via their mobile, thus avoiding bottlenecks when they are away from their desk. Approvers will be able see the full list of trips waiting to be approved, and can decide accordingly directly from their mobile.

A key feature of the new package will be a traveller tracking and security tool that will allow the travel manager to reach out to travellers who may be at risk during an emergency; send SMS notifications before, during and after their trip; and send information via email to all those employees with planned trips for a given destination.

Amadeus say that over the coming years, it plans to expand the focus on corporate travel by utilising the power of mobile technology to helps corporations manage their global travel programmes more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Its technology is used by more than one million business travellers in over 2,500 corporations, such as Altría, Cemex, Daimler, Ericsson, Huntsman, Nestlé, Total and Thales.

In turn, Abacus International has focussed its attention towards helping small and medium-sized agencies improve their operations. The new features will help agencies streamline and automate their mid- and back- office functions such as making bookings, issuing documents, settling transactions, payment, inventory management and real-time reporting.

According to Abacus International, with SME travel agents facing life-and-death issues in an age of globalisation and corporate bankruptcies, they need to boost agency staff productivity and free them up from time-consuming paperwork while reducing costly mistakes caused by human errors.

They also need the ability to analyse important data related to sudden shifts in market conditions and make considered decisions. All this has to be done in a way that speed up its utilisation rate among staff, especially by taking them away from repetitive data input for accounting operations and issuing documents.

Abacus designed the new features to work off the shelf with zero or low investment from agencies in terms of acquiring new hardware or software. It also allows for the agency’s business volume increases.

According to a recent Microsoft survey used as a benchmark by Abacus, 52 percent of potential travellers search three or more sites before booking their airfare, 42 percent of travellers spend between one and four weeks weighing their travel options, while 17 percent spend more than one month.

A different survey by Frommers Unlimited found half of all those surveyed struggled with poorly constructed, confusing and inaccurate travel websites. Half of those surveyed were dissatisfied with content, lamenting insufficient information about the destination, hotel, cruise, airline or ferry companies.

Respondents claimed information was hard to find on many sites and they were frustrated by sites that did not respond to email enquiries or did not allow online booking.

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