BY VICTOR ADAR
Juan Torres is a man who likes taking the bull buy the horns. When he moved to head the East African arm of Amadeus, the global online travel technology company in 2012, he brought to bear his rich background in marketing, corporate strategy and business development.
Today Amadeus rings a bell among other key players like travel agencies, corporations, airlines, airports, hotels and railways. It can be argued that the company gives them the tools to serve travellers better and manage their own business more effectively.
Thanks to the company’s products, Mr Torres says local travel operators can easily absorb the economic shocks of the highly volatile, but lucrative industry. The company facilitates the entire travellers’ journey from door-to-door, in the process improving the travel experience. “We provide the technology that keeps the travel sector moving – from initial search to making a booking, from pricing to ticketing, from managing reservations to managing check-in and departure processes,” explains Mr Torres.
For the two years he has been at the helm of the Amadeus East Africa, the company has grown to control over 55% market share in Kenya and over 40% in the East Africa region. Even before Mr Torres came in, the company had embarked on aggressive expansion setting up offices in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2004) and Kampala, Uganda (2006) in readiness for the region’s anticipated economic takeoff. The Nairobi office was built in 2003.
But this expansion did not translate into the envisioned growth until Mr Torress took over and took just the right mix of personnel, partners, technology and innovation to shape the future of travel in the region. “In May 2012, for the first time we automated the travel agencies operating Somalia. This was the last country for Amadeus to complete its 100% presence on the continent,” says the General Manager, whose first stint at employment was as a banker.
He says the national carrier, Kenya Airways, is now implementing the Amadeus Altea, a programme used by airlines worldwide for various operations including online booking, reservation and check-in. “This was a milestone as 65% of the air bookings done in Kenya are now processed with Amadeus technology,” he says. “That’s why Amadeus travel agencies have access to the same technology that airlines use and this delivers benefits to the travel agency community offering faster system response times, more reliable data, no discrepancies with fares, real-time availability as well as highest level of access.
Mr Torres is emphatic that the company is not merely leveraging on technology to cement its position as a market leader. “On one hand, we have the technology behind the products we have been bringing to the market which cover the front to back office, off-line, mobile and online solutions. On the other hand, and equally important, we have cultivated a strong team that has very strong values and places the customer at the center of all of our activities,” says Mr Torres.
The premium he places on the right personnel out is evident in the fact that the company is constantly training its staff to enhance customer service and tech support. “One of my highest moments is when my team members grow as individuals, and as professionals. Adrenaline flows when I witness the effort, the team work and the final achievements,” he says.
Going forward, the Columbian predicts that mobile phone-based innovations will continue to inspire greater technological advances in travel. “The implication to the industry,” Mr Torres says, “is that travellers will continue internalising technology and the players in the travel ecosystem will have to embrace more and more online, mobile and social media technologies to adapt the operations and evolve in the way they are servicing the end traveller, both business and leisure travellers.”