As we are celebrating the accomplishments and technological innovations Amadeus has achieved over the past 30 years, we are also looking ahead to the future of travel.
We chatted to Mathieu Dutrisac, GM Amadeus East Africa, about his experiences in travel in Africa …
Mathieu took on the role of Amadeus GM for the East Africa region in July this year. He is a senior Telecoms and IT Commercial leader with eight years of experience in East and Central Africa. Prior to joining Amadeus, he was Chief Operating Officer of Airtel Congo Brazzaville; Chief Commercial Officer of Tigo in DR Congo and Head of Products and Marketing in Rwanda.
What have been the main changes in the way people travel 30 years ago and now?
Interestingly, things have become both simpler and more complex at the same time.
Technology improvements have made our planes safer, quieter and equipped with better entertainment. These improvements have also made the buying experience easier thanks to e-ticketing and online comparison facilities.
At the same time, security checks have become increasingly intrusive and unfortunately, the airplane seats have been getting increasingly smaller.
What are you missing about the ‘good old times’ of travel 30 years ago? (the good, the bad and the ugly)
I miss the times when security was more relaxed. I understand the need for tougher measures nowadays, but I have to admit that I miss the times when everybody could walk right up to the boarding gate whether they were travellers or not.
When I was a young boy in the 80s, I spent an hour in the cabin of a Boeing while on the way to Miami. These kinds of experiences have become unthinkable today!
What are you definitely not missing?
I’m not missing the paper tickets and the two-hour long check-in lines.
What else am I not missing? The fact that lost luggage remained lost for weeks – or even forever. Or the fact that you had to call “someone you know at the airport” to know if a flight had arrived or not.
Which three technologies have made the most impact on travel in the past 30 years?
Composite material has had a huge impact on plane design, efficiency and comfort. We don’t always realise the advancements that have been made as the changes have been gradual, but trust me when I say it’s been a huge improvement.
The Internet has obviously made a tremendous impact on travel with the disintermediation of agents which in turn has upended the business model in many countries and forced rapid adaptation. On the other hand, the Internet has also led to the instantaneous connection of worldwide inventories of seats, tracking of luggage, real-time flight tracking, airline seats review, etc.
Another technology that has had its impact on travel is the LCD screen which has enabled personal in-flight entertainment
What has been the most exciting development in travel over the past 30 years?
The most exciting development is that we are starting to talk about space travel.
How has the role of the travel agent changed over the last 30 years?
The travel agent used to be an unavoidable component when booking a trip. Their role was limited to the ‘pre-trip’ part of the booking, as once you had your ticket, you didn’t interact with the agent anymore.
Today travel agents are fighting to stay relevant. They have evolved into full-fledged partners to the traveller by providing services all through the travel flow, from pre-trip to post-trip. They constantly need to adapt to new customers and industry demands, such as transparency, automation, efficiency and duty of care.
What were the biggest fears in the travel industry 30 years ago? How has the industry dealt with these fears?
Travel has always closely followed the business cycle.
Every time there is a recession, there are some doomsayers who say that ‘the golden years are over; and that ‘it will never be the same again’. Then, the economy –and with it, business- comes back and all is forgotten.
If you look back, you will see that many of those who have survived and thrived were those who invested while in the downturn, as they were he best to capture growth when it came back.
A bit more about yourself: where were you 30 years ago? What were your dreams at that time?
Thirty, years ago I was a teenager in high school back in Quebec, Canada. My family loved travelling, and we travelled every year. First, we explored the neighbouring provinces in Canada, then we ventured further and further south in the US and finally we travelled to Central America and the Caribbean. That’s when I got hooked on travel.
As I grew up, I always dreamt of traveling, living and working in foreign countries. Not only do I love traveling to a new place but I love living for a year or five in a country to discover and understand its culture. I have been blessed to be able to do that the past 15 years spent living outside Canada.
Where do you see travel and yourself in 30 years?
I recently discovered this fascinating industry of travel and in the coming years I really want to get a deeper understanding of it.
For the next 30 years, I hope I will be able to keep traveling a lot and discover the world.
I’m crossing my fingers that supersonic travel will make a come-back. I wouldn’t mind a Nairobi-Paris flight in 4 hours.
If you enjoyed reading Mathieu’s story, others might enjoy reading your story too! What has your greatest achievement been in the travel industry and what are you most excited about for the future? Click here to share your story with us on Facebook