Skift Take

Nine months into the deal, Amadeus is toying with plenty of ideas — here's what one senior exec is excited about so far.

Travel technology company Amadeus could soon release new features that tap into Microsoft’s vast “ecosystem” of productivity apps, including leveraging its Xbox gaming console’s virtual reality capabilities to explore the metaverse.

Amadeus formed a strategic partnership with Microsoft in February. Nine months into the deal, it continues to wind down its travel data center in Erding, Germany, and switch over to Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology.

“We are entering a new dimension and the partnership will unlock exciting opportunities that translate into value for the travel industry. We call this new dimension ‘Cloud Planet’ to do justice to its magnitude,” said Christophe Bousquet, chief technology officer at Amadeus, in a blog post on Thursday.

In essence, it means access to better hardware, and a chance to plug into hundreds of different software modules that deal with artificial intelligence and machine learning. But a senior Amadeus exec has told Skift that there are many complementary aspects to the deal now emerging.

“We’re working with Microsoft on a range of initiatives,” said Fredrik Odeen, program director, corporate strategy at Amadeus.

Microsoft owns LinkedIn, which has 800 million members, and a customer relationship management platform called Dynamics — which was “very exciting” for Amadeus, Odeen said, as the travel technology company figures out how to unify travel applications and travel data.

Corporate travel was a focus, and deeper integration into Microsoft “assets” would help would-be business travelers better justify the reasons for the trip. Many companies are beginning to clamp down on travel unless employees are able to justify the reason. Consulting giant Cognizant, for example, is introducing a pre-authorization requirement for all travel from next year.

“If I’m a business traveler, and I’m going on a trip, the way policies work today is that you’re either in or out of policy. A more productive way to think of policies is that the customer needs to be worth it, in terms of the return on investment,” Odeen said.

“So it might not be enough to visit one customer. If you’re set up on the customer relationship management system, you’ll know which other customers are in the same area, or linked up to social media, you could add other contexts. You could meet team members nearby for team building, or there are educational opportunities if there are events nearby,” he added.

Into the Metaverse

There will also be opportunities to explore the metaverse — a parallel universe of virtual reality spaces. The concept was thrust into the limelight following Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, which although was met with some skepticism could yet end up transforming the landscape of events.

“Think about the Xbox and virtual reality, it’s such an immersive experience. It’s a very rich area to look at. How do you mix the physical experience with virtual?” Odeen said. “It’s one of the areas that’s interesting for us to look into. And we’re super excited about the opportunities they have around the metaverse, and Microsoft’s gaming unit.”

Meanwhile, Amadeus is taking more steps towards the creation of the “connected trip” — which involves better sharing of passenger data among travel suppliers, and a hot topic at Skift Global Forum.

With its Microsoft partnership, Amadeus is creating a “data mesh” as opposed to a data lake, which can pose problems when it comes to an individual’s privacy and data protection rights.

“We’re taking operation data from airports, or booking data from the travel sellers network, and linking them together, not putting it in a data lake,” Odeen said. “Data is siloed, but this mesh will make it easier for different providers to share data with each other.”

This would result in a hotel having more visibility of the entire booking and itinerary of a guest, which is becoming more important during the pandemic when disruptions are the norm, not the exception. If a flight is delayed, for example, the hotel would be able to automatically offer the guest a late check-out, or the taxi pick-up time would be automatically changed.

“The ecosystem that we’re playing in today is opening up more and more,” Odeen added.

It all comes back to the emerging Omicron variant threat, which Amadeus is monitoring closely, Odeen said. “We have several programs and new products that have come out that help airlines and other players deal with these step-forward, step-backward situations.”

With a dedicated incubation project set up between the two companies, Amadeus could formally release new Microsoft-themed products or features early next year. Watch this (virtual) space.

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Tags: amadeus, coronavirus, corporate travel management, facebook, google, linkedin, metaverse, microsoft, omicron variant, sabre, travel management, virtual reality

Photo credit: Amadeus is exploring virtual reality and the concept of the metaverse as part of its partnership with Microsoft. Hammer Tusk / Unsplash