As It Moves On From E-Travel, Amadeus Positions 'End-To-End' T&E

Just as Sabre is repositioning its corporate travel assets and reinvigorating its push in self-booking, mobile tools and other business travel areas, so too is global distribution rival Amadeus.

The Spain-based travel IT company is looking to grab market share, and mind share, from Concur by integrating existing capabilities to form the basis of an "end-to-end" proposition for the corporate set.

Amadeus has already broadcast plans to stop updating its established e-Travel Management booking tool in favor of the Cytric Travel & Expense system that it acquired from IFAO in 2014. Amadeus also is sitting on mobile travel technologies, itinerary management tools, a duty-of-care offering as well as content aggregation and search capabilities.

"The marketplace has been shouting for a bit of time: 'We really want some end-to-end alternatives. We want some competition,' " said Jay Richmond, head of Amadeus' North American business travel group. "For this purpose, we think of end-to-end as being booking, itinerary management and expense and reimbursement. If you look around at Sabre or Deem or nuTravel or ourselves, we all see the need to have an offering in the market that hits this end-to-end requirement at a high level and that leverages our specific strengths."

For now, Amadeus is rounding out its Cytric-based offering and migrating e-Travel Management clients.

Amadeus has not firmed the timeline to sunset e-Travel, Richmond said, but teams are working with travel management company partners and corporate clients on individual plans to migrate through the end of next year.

Part of Amadeus' task is to "identify any specific features or requirements that they're getting today from AETM and making sure we're getting all those in a Cytric solution," Richmond said. "Then a big part of this is making sure there is resource availability from the corporation and the TMC to configure, test, train and then launch this migration from one solution to the other."

In Europe, from where Cytric hails, migrations are further along. Cytric already had a solid footprint Germany, Austria and Switzerland and was pushing into other markets when it was acquired.

"We have some large multinationals already using the platform for many years," said Amadeus head of global sales for corporate IT Axel Mueller. "We purchased IFAO, and they have an existing customer base. Now we're adding our own customers on that, and we have the first multinationals that are going live." In Europe, "the peak of the migration will happen beginning of next year," he added.

With its acquisition of IFAO, Amadeus picked up an expense reporting system to complement its core booking capabilities. "It's the new kid on the block," said Mueller. "At Amadeus, we are not known as being an expense player."

Indeed, Amadeus' expense system is "not yet at the global scale that we believe we need the platform to be," said Mueller. "That's a key investment area."

Even so, Amadeus is leading with travel. Executives don't expect to compete with Concur in an expense-only capacity. Not all users will take the expense option.

"In our end-to-end strategy, we still support an open approach," said Richmond, highlighting integration support for duty-of-care providers, expense operators and even competing GDSs or other content providers.

Amadeus may operate a GDS, but the corporate tools are "not just GDS-agnostic, but truly channel-agnostic," said Richmond. "We've made a commitment as Amadeus to bring in that content wherever it may be." That includes vendor-direct, other GDSs and various other content sources, including hotel aggregators.

The cloud-based Cytric system undergoes updates every six weeks. "On AETM we had three big releases a year. Now, it's a constant refreshing process," said Mueller.

Planned updates this year include the launch of a "personal portal" with which users can manage their own profiles, the Microsoft Office calendar integration and "smart search" capabilities.

Richmond said Amadeus is refining search for the corporate market to "curate and optimize" results to better take into account traveler history and preferences.

Amadeus also is exploring new travel booking inputs, including email requests and verbal requests__spoken into a smartphone__to kick off queries.

Meanwhile, no good corporate traveler tool is without mobile capabilities. Cytric makes use of responsive design, bringing compatibility to smartphone, tablet and desktop interfaces.

"We've decided to go with responsive design to eliminate any need for installing an app or having asynchronous release of content or functionality," said Richmond. "Every six weeks, it comes out and it doesn't matter what device you use."

If a branded white-label native app is your flavor, Amadeus is doing that as well.

Meanwhile, Amadeus has "a concrete roadmap to deliver by the end of the year full mobile capabilities and also in the app," said Mueller. "So, you will have all features that you have on the desktop also on the mobile offering. That means pretrip approval, search, book, itinerary management and expense."

Amadeus also has its Amadeus Mobile Messenger duty-of-care offering through a partnership with Charter Solutions International, which offers global risk monitoring. That is yet another potential part of the corporate bundle clients can take__or leave.

As for pricing, there are different models. Amadeus is open to dealing in the longstanding transaction fee model, but also dabbles with some clients on an annual usage-fee basis. Pricing varies based on the bundle of services corporate clients use, said Richmond.