Hi there, Kees. How was your morning so far?
Good, thank you. I was just thinking where I would like to travel next. My wife probably wants me to say Colombia, but secretly I’d love to go to Japan. It’ll probably end up in Scotland though.
Why does she insist on Colombia?
She herself is from the Salsa City, Cali, so we frequently go there to visit family. Cali had a bad name in the past, but now it’s known for its hospitable population, rich culture, and absolutely stunning nature. And it’s only one direct flight from Amsterdam away.
So, a 12 hour flight is peanuts to you?
My family and I don’t mind it, really. While I worked for Holland International – now named TUI – I travelled a lot to Australia, Gran Canaria, the USA, and many other places. Besides, one of my daughters lives in Inverness, Scotland, so we’re used to flying by now.
Why did you start working in the travel industry?
My background is in IT, and, at first, I programmed measure and control systems for large ships. One of my projects was the cruiseship Queen Elisabeth. Pieces of software that I made are probably still floating around the world.
But I was looking for a more dynamic environment, that’s how I ended up at Holland International. I worked there for 10 years and meanwhile completed a 5 years bachelor’s degree in Science with a specialization in networks and protocols.
Did you come into contact with Amadeus during that time?
During my time at Holland International, I visited the Erding data centre and investigated Start Amadeus. When TUI was formed and the ICT department moved from Den Haag to Enschede, I went looking for a different job. That brought me to KLM and later to Hollandse Beton Groep. Sure, I did some interesting projects in those companies, but I missed the dynamism, speed and flexibility of the travel industry.
In 2001 I started talking to Amadeus. Those were very turbulent times for the world, Amadeus and myself. 9/11 had just happened, so travel would never be the same. But as Amadeus had just won 3 or 4 large contracts, I decided to move to Amadeus Benelux.
What’s your responsibility within Amadeus?
I’m now the Sales Manager for Leisure and Online Travel Agencies. The fun side of the business! Just kidding, or course. I started out as a Technical Manager, but in 2007 I got the opportunity to make the switch to the commercial side. And, so far, I still like it and I can confidently say that it’s been a success.
Technological innovation was the initial driver for my career switch. Amadeus used to have pc’s, printers and networks in the offices of travel agencies. I took care of that with a team of technicians. Today, all you need is an internet connection to use Amadeus Selling Platform Connect.
Is innovation a challenge for your customers?
Certainly, I see 2 large groups in that regards. The larger tour operators are competing with the large online travel agencies who are able to offer attractive package deals. Those that adapt, succeed in offering added value and can build an attractive brand. Just look at TUI and TravelBird.
The successful, smaller travel agents and tour operators, on the other hand, are starting to specialize more and more. Djoser and Joker, for instance, are inviting customers to inspiration days. And The Travel Club sends independent personal travel advisors all over the country. For them, the added value is in their personal expertise, supported by technological tools.
Is technology crucial to your dreams for the travel industry?
Yes, and Virtual Reality in particular. Imagine a (real) virtual environment, kind of like that one game Second Life, where you can meet friends and family on the beach. But in such a way that you actually feel the wind in your hairs and the sand between your toes. On a related note, I really want to go to the 4DX version of the latest Star Wars movie which brings just that bit more than just 3D.
Although, what worries me with all these technological innovations is the potential impact on our environment. Did you hear how much power mining cryptocurrencies uses?
Who would you like us to interview next time?
I would like to sit next to Inge De Smet. She’s a Product Manager here. I’ve known her for quite some time and she has plenty to tell. Dedicated, helpful and in touch with several of our most innovative customers.
Sales Manager Leisure & Online Travel Agencies