30 years in Travel
Reading time: 4 minute(s)

Amadeus has come a long way in the last 30 years. We have gone from our first PNR in 1992 to 1.3 billion passengers last year. As Amadeus celebrates its 30th birthday, we decided to chat to Andy Hedley about his experiences over the past 30 years in travel …

What have been the main changes in the way people travel 30 years ago and now? 

Today, people know exactly what they want. They are a lot more precise when it comes to their expectations: they want value.

Thirty years ago, selling travel was like selling apples or oranges. People went to the local travel agent on the corner of the road and purchased their travel.

Today, travellers shop around and look for value and personalisation.

What are you missing about the ‘good old times’ of travel 30 years ago? What has been the good, the bad and the ugly?

Travel used to be a luxury adventure. Now, everything has become a lot more commoditised. The seats are smaller, leg space is shorter, and travellers get treated like cattle. Air travel used to be an experience in itself – now travel is merely a means to get from A to B.

For travel agents, travel has become a lot more complex. Their main job was to book their clients on a flight and issue the ticket. That’s it, they were done.

Today, travel agents need to manage their customers’ needs throughout the journey. The world is totally different today.

What are you definitely not missing? 

The cost of travel. The cost of travel has dropped significantly over the years.

I don’t miss the fact that as a traveller you didn’t use to have access to any information. Today, you have all the information at your fingertips when your flight has been delayed or when changes need to be made.

I don’t miss the smoking on airplanes, and the movie on the one tiny screen in the middle of the aircraft.

Which technologies have had the most impact in the last thirty years?

Online obviously. The Internet has revolutionised the way we buy and sell travel.

Mobile has become increasingly important as well as the ability for the agent to offer value fares thanks to technology, as well as ancillaries.

What have been the scariest, the funniest and the most exciting developments over the past 30 years in travel?

The single most scary development has been the rise of terrorism.

The most fun development has been the development of technology and all the things you can do with this technology.

How has the role of the travel agent changed over the last 30 years in travel?

 The travel agent’s role has changed from making bookings to serving the traveller.

There has been a complete change. The mundane tasks the travel agent used to do have been taken over by automation, but this has opened up a world of new opportunities to serve the traveller.

Travel agents have also had to adjust to the fact that they have now only become as good as their last sale. People used to be loyal to their travel agent, but that’s a thing of the past.

What were the biggest fears in the travel industry 30 years ago? How has the industry dealt with these fears? 

 If you go back 30 years ago, the travel industry was a secure and stable industry.

Fear only started to grow when airlines started introducing sharper commercial revenue management. The evolution towards online competition has also been a big fear, with many travel agents not knowing how to evolve.

The upside is that South Africa has never been at the forefront of the changes in the industry. As a smaller market, it has the advantage of seeing and learning from the experiences of others, so they can position themselves ahead of the curve.

A bit more about yourself: where were you 30 years ago? What were your dreams at that time? Have you accomplished your goals?

I was farming sheepdogs with my wellingtons on in England. I never even imagined leaving farming. My dream at that time was to be an international sheepdog champion. Unfortunately, I never reached that goal.

What are your dreams for the next 30 years?

 The future will tell what’s still to come, but I definitely see myself still in South Africa. It’s a wonderful country.

Where do you see travel in the next 30 years?

There are so many possible ways in which travel can still evolve. It will be dictated to some extent by government policies on open skies, emigration, etc. All of these things will have a major impact on travel and are impossible to predict.

What we can predict is technology and here the sky is the limit. I personally am not willing to get onboard a pilot-less plane, but we certainly can expect those. Travel will become more personalised, costs will continue to drop and people will continue to travel more. A big question mark is where people will travel…

The next thirty years in travel are going to be an exciting ride. We could travel to the moon – I wouldn’t mind a week’s vacation on the moon.