Hello, Olaf! What does an Operations Director do?
Most of the time, I manage a team of around 25 to 30 colleagues. They perform a variety of tasks: product management, consultancy, project management, helpdesk, training and even IT support.
I also work on the introduction of new software solutions for travel agents, both leisure, and business. Right now, that means Amadeus Selling Platform Connect is my priority.
Why did you choose to work in the travel sector?
My choice was largely based on an urge to explore new cultures. In short: I wanted to go abroad. That’s why I moved to Belgium after I studied hotel management in the Netherlands.
When I graduated, I found a steady job at the Sheraton Hotel in Brussels managing their central booking and reservation system. After Sheraton, I joined the EMEA office of Holiday Inn Worldwide and worked with their central booking and reservation system. After a 5-year stint at Toyota Motor Europe, I returned to my first love: travel. And now Belgium is my home and I celebrate 20 years at Amadeus Benelux!
20 years? You must have seen the company grow a lot then?
Absolutely, I’ve been in marketing, product management and now operations. Over that time, Amadeus Benelux has grown tremendously. When I joined we were the third largest GDS in Belgium, today we are the biggest – by far. Because we are very close to our clients. Because we give excellent support. Because we keep an eye on the competition and make sure we’re ahead of the game.
Right now, for instance, we’re involved in a large project with the Belgian and Dutch railways: Amadeus Rail Display. It’s an interface that allows travel agents to book train trips straight from Amadeus Selling Platform Connect. That should make it a lot easier and faster for all parties.
Is speed a challenge for the travel industry?
We face a lot of challenges, but I think there are two large ones. The first is integration. We need to gather as much travel content as possible into one system. That should make it possible for travel professionals to do their jobs more efficiently and offer consumers more transparency at the same time.
The second challenge is the speed of change. Today, everyone realizes how technology can boost your productivity. But technology changes so fast that we need to stay extremely alert and launch the right solution at the right time.
Do you like to travel yourself?
Of course, I do! I travel a lot professionally, mainly to our headquarters in Nice and Madrid. Videoconferencing still hasn’t replaced the value of real human interaction.
When I’m with my family, I like a combination of adventure and comfort. Faraway destinations, such as China and Cuba, do attract me, but I could be equally excited about the South of France – as long as there are new things to discover.
What was your best vacation ever?
It wasn’t really a vacation, actually, it was a humanitarian trip. I went to Tanzania to do volunteer work for a couple of weeks in a school right by the Kilimanjaro. That trip will stay with me for the rest of my life!
What is your dream for the travel industry?
Well, I don’t want to say, because it would disturb Amadeus’ business plan. I’m kidding, of course. My dream is teleportation. Travelling around the world without having to undertake the actual journey? That would be amazing.
Thank you for the trip, Olaf. Who would you like me to set next to?
You’re welcome. I’d like to hear from Priya Mouttou. She’s our HR Director and a real mother figure to the rest of us.
Care to link up?Find Olaf Leenders on LinkedIn here.