I just have to know: what is the temperature in your holiday picture?
(laughs) About minus 13° Celsius. That’s only normal in Lapland in winter. But it’s a different cold than here, much much drier. You get used to it. But we did wear special thermal suits, of course.
Sorry, doing what exactly?
Husky sledding. A truly incredible experience. Absolutely breath-taking, and not just because of the cold. Every now and then, I need to get away from my hectic life here, and the combination of silence, unspoiled nature and space really works for me. White landscapes that never end, such a unique experience.
Did you have to practice working with sled dogs?
I’ve got a dog of my own at home, a jolly Jack Russel, meaning I love and understand dogs. Although mine is not that into sledding. (laughs) The truth is you have to get used to each other. During the trip your relationship with the dogs grows and evolves until you learn to understand each other’s signals. Like, when you’re approaching a hill, the huskies will look at you in a way that says, ‘hey, now’s the time to help us, so start pushing with your feet, okay?’ Amazing.
I sense a funny parallel with communication and marketing
(smiles) Now that you mention it. I have to make different worlds meet in my work and get them aligned. But if there’s one parallel to be drawn, it has to be a passion for travel. I set out to be a journalist, yet I followed my brother’s example early on, who worked at Sabena back then. It quickly became clear that I was a travel omnivore, and loved going abroad.
My career has always revolved around travel, and I have worked for a lot of different organizations, including airlines and Thomas Cook. That’s how I got to see a lot of different countries around the world. And after 3 wonderful years at IKEA, a true school for me in branding, by the way, I returned to my favourite sector as Marketing Director at Amadeus.
You’re leading a relatively new department at Amadeus
True, although I can rely on different people in the team who have been with Amadeus for quite a while. The IT side of travel is truly complex, and marketing requires a lot of talking to a lot of different departments, trying to get them aligned. Efficient meetings can do wonders. (smiles) Beside the strategy, I love action, making things happen, and seeing plans come to life, and doing that with wonderful colleagues. Without them, this would never work.
Hands-on marketing. Could you give an example?
Take our launch of the Amadeus Selling Platform Connect. That was a huge undertaking, both internally and externally, all hands on deck, really. From hanging our milestone posters on the kitchen walls at our offices and making self-made videos with colleagues for internal communication, to creating an experience platform with our customers – it’s been a wonderful journey so far.
What’s your biggest challenge in all this?
It’s key to understand what travel professionals actually need, how we can help them, and start from the added value that we can provide for them. And, secondly, we should try to make our offering clear and simple, explaining exactly what it does for them. The renewed Amadeus Selling Platform Connect is a good example of how we re-designed our platform based on in-depth customer insights and involving customers in the test phases, effectively incorporating their feedback.
Hence the move to social media too?
That’s certainly a part of it. It’s where you can listen to your customers, and you can get really close to them. And if there’s one place where you have to be clear and simple, it should be right here. But, mind you, making that work, requires a lot of internal communication too. So, paradoxically, it’s quite a complex process.
It’s a lot on our plate, I know, but laughing helps. So I try to do that on a daily basis.
Who’s in this seat next time?
I’d love to hear Dolores Prado, our Executive Secretary. I’m sure our readers have met or talked to her before, so it would be really nice to get to know her from a different side.
Care to link up?Find Christine Van den Winckel on LinkedIn here.
Christine Van den Winckel