What type of business do you develop, Stef?
Business of all kinds! The core of my mission is to develop new relationships and to offer new content or IT solutions to travel agents in the Benelux. From parking facilities and taxi or transfer content to cooperating with 3rd party IT partners – we try to give them as many choices as possible. I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades that way.
Do those different objectives bring different challenges?
Sure, but my main challenge stays the same: myself. I have to keep a check on my enthusiasm to protect me from possible disappointments. And that’s more than enough responsibility for one man. (laughs) You know, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, so I don’t need much to go all-in. I always say: every day is a party, but you have to hang the decorations yourself.
Did you always have that enthusiasm in you?
You should ask my teachers at the hotel school in Amsterdam! After I graduated in 1987, I followed my passion and started working as a receptionist for a large Japanese hotel chain. After a couple of years, I joined the (pre-)opening team for a brand new hotel. Just imagine a huge construction site and you get handed the keys. A thrilling project, but those types of teams often fall apart after the project ends.
So what was next for you?
I had the ambition to go into sales and marketing, but that wasn’t happening in the hotel industry. So I switched to the travel industry and started as a sales rep for Sri Lankan Airlines. A rough period, to be sure, with civil war ravaging the country. Thankfully, Sri Lanka and its people are safe today.
After I succeeded in positioning Sri Lanka as a popular travel destination in the Benelux, I moved to China Airlines, the largest National Carrier of Taiwan. After 11 years of travelling back and forth, I met Jesús Medina, one of our Global Account Managers. He convinced me to move to Amadeus in 2009, and I’m still thankful for that.
Did you fall in love with Asia after all those years?
Back then I had the opportunity to travel. A lot. So I did. The entire family did. Today we still visit Thailand almost every two years. We really feel at home in East Asia. The combination of delicious food, diverse culture, and stunning nature is just fantastic! But I like other destinations as well. Take Switzerland, for instance, such breath-taking views! We’re always looking for a combination of nature, culture and plenty of beaches. Although, New York is a must-see for everyone but they don’t have sunny beaches, do they?
Do you miss the Asian way of doing business?
Not at all, Amadeus is a very multicultural and international environment. Contact with other cultures is always an enriching experience for me.
How do you see travel evolve over the next 10 years?
One thing is clear: IT and data intelligence are changing everything. The way we look for and book travel, for instance. We can use that data to help travel agents and local tourism boards. You can tell the role of IT in travel will not stop growing. I firmly believe in the power of AI, blockchain, and VR, and with Amadeus, we’re right in the middle of it all. We have the potential to make our mark on the travel of tomorrow.
Who would you like to sit next to next time?
I’ve thought about it and I would love to have you interview Bozena. She’s our much appreciated Management Assistant and a pillar of the Amadeus Amsterdam office.
Care to link up?Find Stef Rijkers on LinkedIn here.
Manager Business Development