At its flagship conference STX held in Las Vegas in June, Sabre unveiled several product developments to its Global Distribution Systems (GDS), the platform connecting travel suppliers and buyers.
Taking inspiration from e-commerce giants such as Amazon, which processes real-time, data-driven personalised offers to shoppers, the company aims to become a “personalised travel marketplace by 2025”, said Sabre CEO Sean Menke.
He revealed the company is currently working on bringing personalisation to some US$260 billion worth of travel bookings across airline, hotel, agencies and corporations that it transacts annually.
Sabre CEO Sean Menke revealed the company’s aim to become a “personalised travel marketplace by 2025”. (Naomi Neoh)
Here are the highlights of the developments:
1. Multi-source travel content entering the GDS system
• Who is it for: Airlines, Hotels and Agencies
Travel content that has traditionally operated outside the GDS network, such as low-cost carrier (LCC) and online travel agency (OTA) fares products, will be incorporated into the system.
Sabre’s new lodging solution for agency and corporate bookers offers travel content from third-party sources, a move that is set to plug gaps in the fragmented accommodations landscape.
The solution, Content Services for Lodging, will pull together over one million property options and, for the first time, include content from online travel agents and aggregators like Booking.com, bed bank Bedsonline and Expedia Partner Solutions alongside traditional GDS content from hoteliers.
The solution is live and available to use through APIs, which are being incorporated across all of Sabre’s point of sale platforms, including its agency solution, Sabre Red 360 and travel management solution, GetThere. Agencies can start accessing the new solution through Sabre Red 360 in Q4 this year.
Sabre said it is also adding LCC content into the agency platform under a project titled Project Troubadour. The doubling of LCC seat capacity globally to 1.7 billion over the past decade has made it a formidable force in the market, according to aviation intelligence company OAG. Asia Pacific, the world’s largest LCC market, represents about 35% of global LCC seats.
Why it matters: For agencies, this means greater transparency and choice over the content sources available on the GDS platform, meaning that commission structures and fees will apply. For travel management companies, bookings through an aggregator will also be clocked as an active GDS booking and can still benefit from aspects like incentive and commission structures, corporate travel policy and duty of care.
2. Standardisation of travel shopping
• Who is it for: Airlines and Hotels
There is a big push for GDS providers to standardise how air and hotel products are being displayed and sold. The move will enable key product attributes to be presented upfront so as to enable easy product comparison.
Sabre is leading a collaborative effort with a retail display for air products that can compare New Distribution Capability (NDC), ATPCO and LCC offers across multiple airlines.
The Next Generation Storefront (NGS) display sorts content according to fixed categories to ensure that agents can make like-for-like comparisons of products, factoring the base product as well as ancillaries, add-ons, fare conditions and applicable commissions.
For example, this will allow comparisons of traditional fare offers that include a standard seat with paid Wi-Fi (indicated as a “light” option), against another option that offers extra leg room and complimentary Wi-Fi (indicated as a pre-negotiated NDC offer).
For hotels, this means offers can be compared on various levels from the property, room rates, and amenities across multiple content sources, from traditional GDS sources to aggregators.
• Why it matters: This makes it easier to shop for premium products, or products according to specific perimeters other than lowest fares. This new retailing capability could also form the foundation for more ways to retail products, where sellers can package a deal or sell things to a traveller across the trip.
3. Hotels welcome intelligent merchandising to drive personalised retailing
• Who is it for: Hotels
Hotels are being equipped with tools to help drive ancillary sales, a move that could emulate the success that airlines have enjoyed. For too long, hotels lagged behind the more advanced retailing capabilities that airlines adopted to grow ancillary sales, which hit a forecast of US$93 billion in 2018, according to PhocusWire.
At STX, Sabre conducted a live demonstration of its SynXis Intelligent Retailing solution that enables hoteliers to cross-sell hotel rooms at other points of purchase ranging from tours and experiences to other ancillaries. Sabre’s sales engineer Jeff Henley said this makes it possible to retail any product or services, from helicopter tours to clothing.
The platform is powered by machine learning, which is capable of refining product offers that are presented to guests in real-time as they input their selections from room type to floor selection. This means that hotels could use it to make offers for high-margin ancillaries in a more targeted and accurate manner.
Sabre is currently working with Hong Kong-based Langham Hotels to pilot the platform this year, following which it will test the platform over the next two quarters. Sabre expects to bring this capability to the wider marketplace by 2020.
• Why it matters: Hotels stand to tap into a pool of highly-engaged potential guests who are researching and booking related products and services.
4. Increasing cloud support and driving ‘sub-second’ response times
• Who is it for: Airlines, Hotels and Agencies
The migration to cloud-based systems is gaining traction in the travel industry, helping to push computational capabilities to support increasingly complex transactions.
Sabre has spent the last two years peeling out functions from its mainframe and migrating it to the cloud platform across five processing locations across North America in order to make its systems “more globally distributed” and closer to its customers worldwide. Next year, it will add processing locations in Europe.
These infrastructure changes help Sabre support over 600 million shopping requests daily, said Kathy Morgan, Sabre’s vice president of NDC.
“In today’s world of GDS shopping, it’s a sub-second response time. In an NDC world, we are seeing something slightly longer than that. By introducing capabilities like streaming, in which a set of results are presented according to the user’s preferred timeline, we are able to isolate some of the limitations,” said Morgan.
• Why it matters: Transactions are increasingly complicated. Cloud platforms help to streamline system response times, a crucial help when small delays of half or a quarter of a second can add up.
• In a usability study, Sabre found that standardising and structuring the content display helped agents reach a faster booking decision by 30%.
• With the benefit of pre-populated traveller data, insights and shortcut tools, even agents with lesser industry experience are able to complete a given booking process 26% faster on the graphical interface of Sabre Red 360 than a highly-proficient veteran agent on a native “blue screen format”.