Industry Needs First

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Amadeus Southern Africa has a new General Manager in the form of Scotsman Andy Hedley, with the former Head of Technical Business at Travelstart taking office in November – giving him just enough time to see what he’s in for, before treating editor Dylan Rogers to lunch at the Amadeus office in Johannesburg. For a former cattle and sheep farmer, Andy Hedley seems to know a lot about travel and technology. But his real passion appears to be in problem solving and – as that relates to his new position at Amadeus – the merging of technology and relationships. “You can produce the best tech in the world, but if you don’t have the relationships to build a partnership, you’ll go bust,” he says. “Equally, everyone can love you, but if you’ve got nothing to sell, you’re not going to make it. The relationships are just as important as the technology.” And that’s what Hedley says he’ll be driving with his team at Amadeus Southern Africa, whether they are dealing with a small ‘mom and pop’ agency operation or one of this market’s big players. “The aim is to be a partner with the agents, not just a retailer,” says Hedley. “And to do that, you have to listen and address their problems, not just deal with your perceptions. Saying that, at times customers don’t even realise what their problems are. Sometimes it takes an outside view to find a solution.” And that’s exactly what Hedley brings to his new employer, as a former Amadeus customer. “When you’re internal, it’s easier to look at things from the company point of view and you don’t see that as being a major issue without realising the business impact it can have,” he says. “My ‘customer’ point of view has been welcomed by many of the guys.” As one of the big multinational players in the global distribution system and IT solutions spaces, Amadeus has big muscles to flex in the Southern African market, where, arguably, it perhaps has some ground to make up on competitor Travelport. Hedley, though, is not focused solely on trying to gobble up market share. “Market share and efficiencies are drivers, but at the core it’s about bringing to the industry what it needs, which is the right tech at the right price,” he says. “Technology is either to drive efficiency savings or to drive additional or increased revenue.” Hedley is a big fan of the Amadeus culture and what he believes is an innate desire to stay relevant. But, I steer him away from this for a moment. I’m interested to get Hedley’s take on Lufthansa. The two parties grabbed industry headlines in 2015, when the Lufthansa Group announced their decision to add a fee of 16 euros to every GDS booking for Lufthansa, Austrian, Brussels, Edelweiss, and Swiss, and in doing so encouraged customers to book directly with their websites and service centres. As you can imagine, the response from the industry and the GDS companies in particular, including Amadeus, was explosive. “People keep assuming that we hate each other, but we don’t,” says Hedley. “We actually have a lot of development working hand-in-hand with Lufthansa. We’ve even released a cloud-based solution for them recently. There’s a disagreement over their decision on their distribution, where they obviously want to get more control. What the GDS offers is more transparency and price comparison. I don’t know how it will work out in the long run.” Amadeus Southern Africa covers 10 countries – South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius, and Mozambique – and Hedley has already shaken things up by appointing one of his senior managers in a new role focusing on Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique. There’s also a country manager for Angola and one for Mauritius, as, according to Hedley, “this is where a lot of the future lies.” He hasn’t had too much time to assess all of the African countries in his portfolio, but Hedley has spent enough time in the industry to formulate an opinion. “These other countries have smaller agencies,” he says. “They have more fragmented markets, but you still have the important players in there. The world economic situation is going to start levelling out. As it does, those markets are going to start growing.” And grow is what Hedley clearly wants for Amadeus Southern Africa, both organically and with its customers.
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