"Technology always develops from the primitive, via the complicated, to the simple.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Growth and complexity
An aviator and engineer, born 119 years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s quote left us a timeless analogy to describe how the travel and hospitality (T&H) industry transforms. The industry is big, complex and people-driven. With the concepts of travel, hospitality, and tourism closely linked with significant overlap, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) provides useful guidance of the dimension and economic impact. According to the WTTC, Travel & Tourism contributed $8.8Tn to the global economy in 2018 and for the eighth consecutive year, this was above the growth rate of world GDP. It is the second-fastest-growing industry in the world, ahead of Healthcare (+3.1%).
It’s little wonder when we consider T&H a “partner and people” business because of its position as a heavily service-oriented ecosystem and the multiple relationships and interdependencies at play. Few other industries also face a technology environment as extensive and complex as the one found in travel and hospitality. It’s an industry that has attracted pioneers and technology innovators, forming one of the largest partner ecosystems in the world. These ecosystems are all connected through a set of initiatives, strategic cooperation, or partnering on the basis of so-called “coopetition.” All of this is led by one obsession: to improve the customer journey for the traveler.
Partners and platforms
In the early 1950s when airlines began to cooperate with technology partners to help them automate the booking process, a traveler had to wait upwards of 90 minutes for the airline agent to complete a single booking. 65 years later, T&H faces consumers whose average attention span has dropped to eight seconds (one second less than that of a goldfish) and of whom 53% leave a mobile webpage that takes longer than three seconds to load. In between these developments, it was a growing network of partnerships leading with technology to create the travel & hospitality ecosystem we operate in today. When American Airlines and Sabre setup the first airline travel reservation system in the 1960s, it was comprised of two IBM mainframe computers connecting 1,500 terminals across the U.S. and Canada. Although primitive compared with the computing power of a cell phone today and build on legacy systems partially still in use, a revolutionary foundation was laid to connect suppliers and technology partners across the travel value chain. Fast forward to 1996 when Expedia launched its online booking version of a travel platform, followed by a boom of startups and established players leveraging the cloud. With the inception of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006, travel technology companies could now access a dynamic model of computing services, enabling them to build agile, scalable, and cost-efficient digital travel platforms. Today, being all-in on AWS, Expedia’s developers are able to innovate faster while saving the company millions of dollars. As Tony Donohoe, chief technology officer at Brand Expedia Group comments “Now we can analyze seven days of data in 30 seconds—that’s 360 times faster.”
Building the future of travel and hospitality
Given the complexity AND opportunity, it’s no wonder T&H customers want to engage with partners that offer AWS technical expertise, proven customer access, and well-architected solutions. The AWS Partner Network (APN) is the global partner program for technology and consulting partners to help customers building their business on AWS in the cloud. APN strives to enable partners not just to build an AWS business but to uniquely position and differentiate themselves in the industry through training, certifications, and specialized programs. With more than 90% of Fortune 100 companies and the majority of Fortune 500 companies using APN Partner solutions and services, APN Partners drive significant transformation across all major T&H brands. Knowing this wave of transformation is driven by a healthy growth of startups (one-third of all funding raised for travel-related startups since 2009 occurred in 2018), AWS offers an established startup partner practice for T&H. From BeMyGuest to Airbnb – they’ve been able to grow and innovate quickly, replacing complexity with convenience and better value to travelers across all touchpoints, from inspiration to post-trip services. As like-minded industry players, AWS travel & hospitality partners share key competencies of success – we call them superpowers. Those are the ability to apply deep industry expertise with a builder’s curiosity to build innovative solutions on AWS; to leverage AWS experience as a skillset to attract the best talent, and to build up trust through a relentless focus on improving the customer’s business.
If we look at what is taking place in T&H, the industry is notorious with technology buzzwords and shiny objects such as next-generation retailing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning or big data and predictive analytics. What we hear from our customers a lot, is they need guidance in how all of this translates into measurable business outcomes through the lens of operational efficiency and customer experience. “How can an airline optimize turnaround time at the gate or optimize the flight path”?, “How can a restaurant chain improve time to turnaround tables or at the drive-thru?” are typical use cases and this is where APN Partners are lined up to work with customers as trusted advisors and technology builders.
An APN Partner’s take
Jakki Geiger, CMO of Reltio described how they leverage their T&H superpowers as an advanced AWS technology partner:
“As an executive who spends almost 50% of my time on the road, I’m experiencing the massive shift that’s taking place in the travel and hospitality industry firsthand. As companies such as Airbnb and Uber have taken mind and market share with their disruptive business models, the executives in the travel and hospitality are working hard to reinvent their businesses. While working from my newly renovated Premier King Room at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, I’m reminded of the quotation from Arne Sorensen, CEO of Marriott Group, “We are in an absolute war for who owns the customer*.”
The key to winning in the experience economy is for the leaders of travel and hospitality companies to have a clear vision of how they will continually fuel the experiences of the future. This means shifting to a customer-centric approach to drive hyper-personalization, investing in digital innovation to accelerate real-time operations, and simplifying compliance with privacy laws by managing customer consent and channel preferences at a global level, while empowering customer engagement at a regional level across all the touchpoints in the customer journey.
We have the privilege of working with some of the most innovative Global 2000 companies who are planning to win in the experience economy. They want to break up the internal customer data silos, break free from legacy customer data management systems, and breakthrough the organizational mindset barriers so they can use insight-ready data to generate big ideas about the experiences of the future.
These data innovators are gaining business agility by leveraging a modern approach to data management. Reltio leverages modern technologies such as SaaS, a big data architecture, graph and machine learning running natively on AWS. Our customers use Reltio to create Connected Customer Profiles, which allow them to manage 1000s of attributes about customers including preferences and intent from transaction and interaction data, and easily add, remove and change attributes, so they can understand their customers better, segment more effectively and engage more effectively in 1:1 interactions. At the same time, it provides them with operational efficiencies because employees are empowered with the rich, valuable information they need about their customers to do their jobs more effectively.
Hospitality organizations like Marriott are enabled to do things that were very difficult to do before. They can give their corporate clients a global view of revenue spent and room nights by account. They can easily manage complicated corporate hierarchies. They can easily onboard new data sources and third-party data to continuously enrich their understanding of their customers. This modern approach enables them to compensate their sales teams more effectively and improve their forecasting accuracy while retaining their corporate client loyalty and growing account value. On the cost savings side, it significantly reduces their Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
By using Reltio on AWS, the data innovators in the travel and hospitality industry are gaining a powerful combination of connected customer profiles to understand their customers better and a cloud platform that gives them immense business agility and enterprise scale. These are the keys to winning in the experience economy.”
If you are a technology company and want to become part of the most advanced ecosystem at work for travel and hospitality, AWS is happy to hear from you. And if you’re a company that wants to tap into AWS' partners' superpowers – that’s what we’re here for. You don’t have to operate “in the cloud” to make technology simpler or transform your business. But the spirit of aviation pioneer Antoine de St Exupéry certainly holds true as an inspiration for our APN Partners (and those to be) to transform the business of travel and hospitality. Learn more at aws.com/travel.
*(Harvard Business Review 2019)
About the Author: Florian Tinnus
Florian Tinnus brings 20+ years of experience in the travel and hospitality industry with leading commercial roles for IT solutions and strategic partner management at Fortune 500 companies and technology players. Based in Boston, MA, he is responsible to lead the AWS Partner Ecosystem for Travel & Hospitality globally. Florian holds a degree in business economics and is a certified airline commercial manager. He lived and worked in Germany, France, and the United States with a passion for all things travel and technology.