iAlbatros annouces MAYA SBT

An exclusive interview with Mr Moncef Khanfir, iAlbatros: « We are going to present at the IFTM [The Travel Market Rendez-Vous EXPO] currently the first totally independent and the most exhaustive SBT. »


A brand new SBT is coming to the European market 

With KDS falling to the Amex GBT purse and Traveldoo being owned by Egencia, the list of totally independent SBTs has been brutally reduced to nothing.  Even though there are such tools as Concur here and there, they enrich with the commercial strategy piloted by the editor, after being integrated in the heart of its technological structures.

Moncef Khanfir from iAlbatros has a totally different vision: « We wish to present an open, free from any pression, system where everyone will integrate their needs following their suppliers and their commercial expectations». This brand new approach is developing fast in AngloSaxon countries to such an extent that even Amex wishes to stray from the only GDS vision to propose its own hub to its clients.
Connected to GDS, to suppliers, to collaborative startups… this new SBT, named Maya, has the ambition to “become the data aggregator hub” and may shake up the forthcoming months of business travels. But what does iAlbatros wish to do precisely? An interview with the CEO.


DeplacementsPros.com: You are going to present a brand new SBT at the IFTM Top Resa. A risky gamble, isn`t it?

Moncef Khanfir: Not at all, even on the contrary because the SBT we are going to present is a well accomplished evolution of ten years reflexions on the reservations and the expenses management tools. I participated in the KDS adventure and today I know that the audacity and willpower are not enough. We need realism, practice and not empty promises. Our clients expect tangible solutions, and that is exactly what we are going to show them at the IFTM.
Let us inspect the actual market situation where demand is high for innovations to stay in line with the new technologies. Today, it needs independence for data management free from any travel agency marketing vision. In my opinion, the other important aspect is that the old solutions come to the end of a cycle on all levels: the lack of real native mobile oriented architectures, the cautious actual market actors hampering innovation, a massive arrival of collaborative platforms to be integrated, the leisure influence on the business travelers, which forces the actors to remodel the systems, an obsolete economic model… A never-ending list.    Finally, there has not been any new incomer for the last 15 years, this is a quasi-monopolistic market with no independent actors.
What are the innovations proposed by the agencies? A signing bonus, one euro or free fees. The technology to transform the SBT into a simple service with no real technological innovation has been forgotten… That is the current situation. And we are not the ones to paint that gloomy picture of the SBT, these are the clients who are the ones who tell us that today, we need to develop the offer.


DeplacementsPros.com: We can see clearly that the online solution awaited by the clients need to be proposed at an attractive cost. Is it still possible to stay profitable, develop and stick to expectations at the same time? 

Moncef Khanfir: Naturally and that is exactly what we are going to do. The first visible changes with our SBT: our fares` vision. I am always surprised when I hear: « Pay before you enter ». Try to imagine a mall asking you to pay the entrance ticket to go shopping! So we invented three paying plans: the annual license, the flexible subscription based on the APPS model payable online for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months, commitment-free – not to forget the client commitment
free formula or the «PAY as you USE ». Each of the mentioned offers is flexible depending on volumes. We offer the deployment, as well as the referent`s training, no matter if they are the purchaser, the TM or assistants within the company.
We will promote the payment by suppliers, as the hotelkeepers for instance who are already used to these new tools. Today, the “Touch less” is in full development. A reservation is made directly via the technological tools. There is no way to tell the purchaser that it costs much, even if there is a technological cost.
I believe you have fully understood that the iAlbatros HBA sustainability is directly connected to the independence of its offer because the enterprises generally wish a One Stop Shopping where the solution for the hotels is integrated in the SBTs. If the SBTs which impose a cost per transaction to HBA and some of them even a percentage on the volume (take it or leave it) do not show some understanding, the HBA business will be in danger. Then, we will see the SBTs develop their own solutions for the hotels. KDS will propose the AMEX solution, CWT has its own one… If we continue like that, I cannot foresee any promising future of the local HBA which would not own their own technology.
In fact, except Egencia, starting from its commercial launch, Maya will be the one and only independent tool having a native hotel solution with no cost and no integration or “ready to use” delay.


DeplacementsPros.com : Was it the right moment to launch this brand new SBT?

Moncef Khanfir: The distribution world is getting reorganized, the mobility is becoming a strategic axis, the Internet offer`s transparency is essential and the advent of a new techno era is the promise of the forthcoming months. Keeping this in mind, how could we not get involved in creating new tools proposing the financial consolidation, the profiles management in order to reassure the traveler, the real time data and a refined reporting that will be closest to the expense incurred? Maya is highly progressive with an expense module and some driven tools for analyzing the expenditure and consolidations management… It is true that the latest pieces of news have deeply upset purchasers who do not wish a TMC to pilot their SBT. That is a real opportunity.


DeplacementsPros.com: How precisely will your SBT change the purchasers` technological vision?

Moncef Khanfir: It is essential not to ever innovate for the sake of simple innovation. You should simplify things. This is the key word of the project. I often say to the engineers: “Leave your office, go outside and ask yourselves how you buy your own trips.” It is this simplification stage which suggests complete, intuitive and ergonomic screens.
With Maya, the traveler gets a very graphic screen which offers them a complete view of the offer adjusted to the enterprise`s travel policy. Each module presents all the pieces of news necessary to make a reservation: the price, the flight or train time schedule, the sit in a plane thanks to a flight cabin representation… Many really practical tools, no gadgets.
The look and feel will make you think of Momondo with its soft and readable colorimetry.  But please notice that graphic does not mean limited power. The trips validation or optimization tools are controlled by artificial intelligence modules that are based on the traveler ‘s history. Each stage is subject to an analysis of the expenditure with alerts if the chosen items do not match the company’s travel policy. Maya has no need to envy its concurrence. In fact, it is quite the opposite, our SBT is way ahead of it.


DeplacementsPros.com: How is iAlbatros different from other technological companies in this field of activity?

Moncef Khanfir: I like to answer this question with numbers. Out of 200 employees, iAlbatros counts a R&D team of more than 100 engineers, it is a real power. Our techno is mobile native oriented, which means one code for all the supports: web browsers, iPhone, Android or tablets.
Going into details, I would also say that we have committed a break with the classical algorithmic programmatic and adopted paradigms of artificial intelligence that are the future of the business travel. For example, in the administration panel that models the management rules we have an analytical structure that guides the administrator to the most logical choices.
There are two other aspects that make us different from the concurrence. The first one is our permanent analysis of the user experience which is in the heart of the solution. We have finally succeeded in “leisuring” the business trip by proposing the sit assignment, supplementary luggage purchase, additional offers if they exist. All these features in the same reservation module. If you like Hipmuk or Momondo, you will love Maya!
The last aspect: we have worked on the opening to the external world and even on integrating the data coming from other SBTs via iAConnect, a universal web service which is used to reference the content coming from other databases.


DeplacementsPros.com: Are you going to stray from other GDSs? 

Moncef Khanfir: Of course not. We are going to work with the GDSs, especially with Amadeus which corresponds to our expectations. The SBT and the GDS are our partners, not our enemies. We wish to be multi GDS and, what is important, following our clients` demands.
We present the exhaustive offer, from low cost trains via e-billing, the ERP integration, the multi-currency, the multi languages, to the payment tools management…
Please remember that we have the commercial status allowing us to debit directly the expenditure on corporate cards… Seeing the operations executed in real-time can help to measure the power of Maya.


DeplacementsPros.com: Would you like to announce any new clients?

Moncef Khanfir: Let us wait until the Top Resa opening to unveil the names. For now, 5 important clients have contacted us to know a bit more about Maya. For the moment, our aim is to show what we have and to interact with potential users.
Our tool is progressive, reactive and exhaustive. Let us have the market feedbacks. I remain confident.

Interview realized by Marcel Lévy

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