The Con­ver­sa­tion: Ken Cameron, Evolvi

Manag­ing Direc­tor, Evolvi Rail Sys­tems Andy Hoskins speaks with the boss of the cor­po­rate rail book­ing sys­tem as he marks ten years at the busi­ness

The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents -

Ken Cameron notched up a decade of ser­vice with Evolvi Rail Sys­tems in Jan­uary, the lat­est chap­ter in his life­long ca­reer in travel.

The jour­ney be­gan as a reser­va­tions agent with Bri­tish Cale­do­nian and has seen him help es­tab­lish travel tech spe­cial­ist Amadeus in the UK and take on roles at Eurostar and then IATA in Geneva. Most re­cently, he was Head of Op­er­a­tions at Rail Set­tle­ment Plan.

“Travel is a fan­tas­tic in­dus­try,” he says, “and I don’t think I’m un­usual for hav­ing spent con­sid­er­able years within it.”

Many busi­ness trav­ellers will not know the Evolvi name, even though it ac­counts for around 60% of all cor­po­rate agency rail book­ings in the UK through the Evolv­ing book­ing tool and Evolviws API.

“Travel man­age­ment com­pa­nies own the re­la­tion­ship with cor­po­rate users and the vis­i­bil­ity of the Evolvi sys­tem de­pends upon how the book­ing and ful­fil­ment tool is im­ple­mented,” Cameron ex­plains.

“If it’s through a third party sys­tem like a self-book­ing tool or a TMC’S own be­spoke sys­tem then the end user won’t nec­es­sar­ily know they are us­ing Evolvi.”

While the Evolvi sys­tem al­lows busi­ness to bet­ter man­age their rail travel needs, it also con­tin­ues to in­no­vate in the com­plex arena of book­ing and ticket ful­fil­ment. It has over one mil­lion reg­is­tered users across 22,000 cor­po­rate clients of TMCS and han­dled more than 8.6 mil­lion trans­ac­tions in 2017.

Im­pres­sively, it has also seen the av­er­age ticket value (ATV) fall from £59.03 in 2013 to £56.82 in 2017, de­spite an­nual fare in­creases of up to 3.9% over that pe­riod.

Nev­er­the­less, the cor­po­rate market has its lim­its. “We're find­ing there is more de­mand for us to sup­ply rail content for a wider va­ri­ety of sys­tems,” says Cameron. “We're in­vest­ing heav­ily in the devel­op­ment of our API to pro­vide highly con­fig­urable content for travel por­tals. We are be­com­ing more of a tech­nol­ogy provider than just a TMC part­ner.”

The cor­po­rate rail travel market is dom­i­nated by com­peti­tors Evolvi and Train­line, with the lat­ter ben­e­fit­ting from a high-pro­file pres­ence in the con­sumer market. Is that a prob­lem for Evolvi?

“I think it is a big­ger is­sue for the in­dus­try rather than Evolvi. The con­sumer market and busi­ness travel market are very dif­fer­ent and our fo­cus is cre­at­ing value for TMCS and other clients,“says Cameron.

“The con­sumer market is where com­pe­ti­tion is re­quired and the in­dus­try needs to do more to pro­mote new en­trants.” Cameron also iden­ti­fies room for im­prove­ment in tick­et­ing and on­board prod­uct from train op­er­at­ing com­pa­nies (TOCS).

“I have con­cerns about the pace of progress to­wards true dig­i­tal tick­et­ing in­te­gra­tion across the UK rail net­work, but I’m also wor­ried that busi­ness travel still does not seem to be held in high enough es­teem on cer­tain net­works,” he ex­plains.

“The needs of busi­ness peo­ple are not un­rea­son­able. We want a com­fort­able seat, a ta­ble, power socket, strong mo­bile sig­nal and good, free, se­cure wifi. Some TOCS do take busi­ness travel se­ri­ously, but there are still ex­am­ples of new rolling stock com­pletely miss­ing the point.”

Mean­while, Cameron cites IATA as a source of in­spi­ra­tion for tick­et­ing de­vel­op­ments. “When IATA de­cided to move to air­line et­ick­et­ing in the early 2000s, it only took four years to reach 100% pen­e­tra­tion. That was pos­si­ble be­cause it was prop­erly scoped and funded,” Cameron stresses.

“The sav­ings op­por­tu­ni­ties were enor­mous and the air­lines in­vested time, ef­fort and re­source to achieve them. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of years that the rail in­dus­try, com­men­ta­tors and Depart­ment for Trans­port have been talking about smart cards, wave and pay, con­tact­less, bar­codes, EMV, post pay... If we want to move for­ward at all in these ar­eas, the in­dus­try could learn a lot from IATA.”

Busi­ness travel still does not seem to be held in high enough es­teem on some net­works. There are still ex­am­ples of new rolling stock com­pletely miss­ing the point”

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