Harnessing technology

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A combination of trends in consumer technology, rising traveller expectations, the continued expansion of mobile devices, and many other market dynamics all have an impact on the corporate travel experience. Ref lecting these changing conditions, Sabre is introducing the new Traveller Experience Platform, a single mobile platform that allows business travellers to self-manage in-transit travel arrangements. Richard Addey, SA Country Director of the Sabre Travel Network, took some time to tell Business Traveller Africa more about Traveller Experience Platform and the company.

Q: What is the biggest talking point in the GDS space right now?
A: Personalisation and creating experiences. Travellers’ needs have evolved; they now expect a highly tailored service – which means access to the products and services they want, when they want them. Travellers have an entire ecosystem of options, services, apps, channels, and data streams at their disposal – and travel companies like Sabre provide the platform that serves up these options.

Q: What differentiates Sabre from the other GDS companies in the industry?
A: Our technology innovation. Since we went public in 2014, we have brought at least 15 new and unique solutions to market that respond to the current industry challenges – changing consumer behaviours, a competitive market landscape, emerging technology and how to retail effectively. Our platform drives transactions on a massive scale. Furthermore, our tech manages 99,000 messages per second at peak times. We’re also in the API Billionaire’s Club, along with Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Q: What are your thoughts on ‘Big Data’ and the role it is playing in the travel industry?
A: Data that customers share with travel companies is evolving in size and structure – presenting a huge challenge. Airlines already house terabytes of information, but only use about 12% effectively. Sabre has developed tools that can enable travel companies to harness the data, enabling them to turn it into actionable insights. They can then offer travellers contextually relevant products and services throughout their journeys, creating new revenue streams. This will open a whole new world of possibilities for airlines, hotels and travel companies, and will completely transform the experience for passengers.

Q: Is Sabre launching any new products in the short-term?
A: We recently launched our Traveller Experience Platform that allows travellers to self-manage in-transit booking, payments, expense reporting, safety and security matters. We will soon launch a new version of Sabre Red Workspace with new decision support tools, predictive data insights and merchandising capabilities that bring agents and suppliers together to create personalised experiences for travellers.

Q: How is Sabre using cutting-edge technology to improve the business travel experience?
A: The Traveller Experience Platform helps solve some of the biggest challenges facing business travel programmes: corporate travel managers searching for a flexible platform, travellers looking for a seamless experience and corporations striving for a positive return on investment. It will maximise efficiency and streamline expenses for corporations while improving traveller satisfaction with corporate travel programmes. One of the ‘wow’ features of the new Sabre Red Workspace includes the Decision Support Bar, which provides the consultant instant access to market data for fare trends, travel seasonality, fare ranges, alternate dates, and alternate airports. This data provides instant access to information without having to invoke additional commands.

Q: What were some of the major findings of the ‘African Travel Report’ conducted by Sabre last year?
A: Our report found that African air travel spend is expected to rise 24% following the introduction of the pan-African passport in 2018. Travellers from four countries – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt – were surveyed, with those having flown in the past 24 months saying they would spend 24% more with the introduction of the passport (from $1,100 to $1,500 annually). When asked what prevents them from travelling more, the top reasons were that travel is too expensive (32%), it’s difficult to obtain visas (31%), it’s too difficult to book travel (30%) and that there are no flights to the destinations they wish to go to (28%). Travellers also expressed a number of gripes about their current experiences when travelling, such as the check-in process taking too long, check-in being confusing, they don’t like the food offered on aircrafts, and even that there is not enough to do at airports.

Q: It’s arguable that Sabre has much ground to make up on the other two major GDS players in the southern African market. How do you plan to do that?
A: Sabre is a technology company, not just a GDS. Our presence in Africa is actually quite considerable if you understand the number of companies that are using Sabre’s technology; from top airlines to the biggest African corporates and travel agents. We intend to continue our investment to settle our position in Africa.

Q: What does the GDS future look like?
A: The future for the GDS remains strong. Our platform reaches more than 425,000 travel agents and helps travel grow revenue through access to a huge number of corporate travellers. An effective retailing strategy for a travel supplier involves making their full roster of products and services available through all channels – both direct and indirect – so that the traveller has maximum choice at all times. C