“Hectic. Open-minded. Challenging.” This is how Sako Signate, who has spent almost his entire professional career at Amadeus, would describe the company.
Sako took up a new role as General Manager Amadeus Central and West Africa in May this year. It is the first time he works on the African continent.
“Even though I am half Senegalese, and I used to live in Dakar for 10 years when I was a kid, taking up this position in Central and West Africa is still a true discovery. I must admit that the dynamic and energy of the African continent are fascinating to me, and this was an important part of my decision to take up this role,” he says, adding that he is truly looking forward to his time in CWA and especially to be part of the success stories of Amadeus’ CWA customers.
Sako likes Gandhi’s adage of “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” He explains that he finds both Gandhi and Steve Jobs inspiring people. “They may be quite different, but they both said and did things that really strike a chord with me, and they also both have a true ability to make things happen despite adversity.”
Sako worked on various product areas during his career at Amadeus and from different angles – from R&D functional analysis to product management. “All along, my objective has always been to continue doing new things, in different contexts, and to move towards more customer-facing roles,” he says.
Although Sako finds it difficult to choose just one product, if he had to choose a favourite Amadeus solution it would be Sell Connect. “Amadeus Selling Platform Connect is the window for our Travel Agent customers to a world of powerful solutions from Amadeus. The platform not only offers access to a wide array of competitive content, it also allows Travel Agents to retail efficiently and to serve the traveller better.”
What are Sako’s expectations and ambitions for Amadeus in CWA?
“My main goal is to shape the future of CWA’s travel by putting Amadeus’ powerful technological travel platform in the hands of industry players to allow them to reach an even higher level of traveller service and satisfaction, and success in their businesses,” he says.
Sako explains that CWA, like the rest of the world, is facing a rapid evolution of the travel landscape. He says: “One example is NDC (New Distribution Capabilities). The NDC will help travel industry players reach a new level of personalised content for their travellers. However, to fully embrace the benefits of NDC, Travel Agencies will need to be supported by an even more powerful platform than the one we have today. At Amadeus, it is our role to aggregate increasingly complex content. A trip is often much more than just the flight, which is why we want to increase our presence beyond air.”
Sako adds Amadeus is also preparing for evolutions and trends that can’t be anticipated today. He says: “Africa is such a fast-paced and creative continent. Just think of the evolution of mobile, and the payment innovations we’ve witnessed. We are working hard to be part of the next successful innovations, however realistically it’s impossible to anticipate every trend, so possibly we’ll need to jump on the bandwagon when we see a trend taking shape and add value through our technology”
Sako explains the CWA travel industry is likely to keep moving up. This means we can expect an increasing diversity of travel products and solutions from providers to serve African travellers. Says Sako: “It is our role at Amadeus to make sure that CWA Travel Agencies can access this content. We will continue to incorporate all the relevant content our customers need from any source to be distributed via any channel or device so they can sell more and merchandise better.”
If there’s one thing that will stay the same, it’s the unrivalled level of Amadeus’ products and the customer support Amadeus brings to its customers in the region. “Customers are at the heart of everything we do,” says Sako.
The biggest challenge?
The greatest challenge of his new role, according to Sako, is that Central West Africa is a wide territory with 22 countries, many different cultures and different levels of economic maturity.
He says: “It’s an ever-going challenge to keep the incredible dynamic going that the Amadeus CWA team has put in place across such a heterogeneous territory. Moreover, we need to be a part of – as well as be a crucial player in – any disruption that happens in CWA’s travel industry ecosystem. This means that we need to keep our eyes, ears and minds wide open to guide our customers towards their next successful journey.”
The changes at Amadeus will benefit the CWA travel industry
Amadeus has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months. Sako explains that more empowered and demanding travellers are accelerating the rate of change in the travel industry. “They want choice, transparency in pricing, personalisation. Technology is the main driver behind this change as it is opening a myriad of possibilities for travellers and the brands that serve them,” he says, adding that Amadeus is a partner to Travel Agents in this journey.
Says Sako: “We will provide our Travel Agency customers with technology and guidance to serve their travellers today and in the future. We want to work differently and further put our customers at the heart of our business. This is why we are evolving our travel channel division from a geography-led approach to a customer-led approach. We are now organising our travel channel activities around key customer segments: Retail, Online, Business Travel and Corporations.”
This is not a radical change, according to Sako, but rather an optimisation of the way Amadeus operates. “Not only will we keep our geographical footprint and local support, but in addition, our CWA customers will benefit from innovative tailored solutions with a faster time-to-market even if this solution was born in another part of the world.”
“The CWA Amadeus Commercial organisation remains committed to the success of every CWA customer,”” Sako points out. “As CWA General Manager, I will be the main point of contact to handle any major business issues, and the team will remain available to help our customers to address challenges and opportunities ahead.”