Q&A: Sabre solutions keep agents relevant

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SINGAPORE, 20 April 2018: Sabre Travel Network Asia-Pacific recently launched its Sabre Red Working Space to travel agents across the region.

Based on Sabre’s online APIs, it provides travel consultants with the latest shopping technology. Intelligent search APIs can identify similar destinations for the same or even lower price than the original search and help recommend when is the best time to travel.

Another tool, BargainFinder Max, provides agencies with the ability to sort and display hundreds of lower-priced itineraries available for flights worldwide.

These are just some of the takeaways presented by Sabre Travel Network Asia Pacific vice president, Todd Arthur, in a Q&A on trends and tools of the trade.

Q: Looking at the market in Southeast Asia over the last few years, has there been a marked shift in the uptake of travel agencies using Sabre services?

A: Sabre continues to make progress in the market and has observed steady uptake of its services from agencies across the region. There is also an important trend to make note of, which is the rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

Used by consumers and companies, worldwide, online travel agencies (OTAs) turn to us to provide them access to our travel marketplace, through the Sabre global distribution system.

We provide OTAs access to 420 airlines, 750,000 hotel properties, 17 cruise lines, 40 car rental brands, 140 tour operators and over 50 rail carriers.

The growing number of online players offers more opportunities for Sabre. They require access to high quality air, hotel and rental content and OTAs primarily need support with strong content and high-quality shopping.

Sabre continues to work closely with all major airlines to provide access to their best content. We have also more than doubled our online team in APAC in the last two years and have dedicated teams to optimise our customers shopping results and to face changing market needs.

To support all types of agencies in adapting to the changing landscape, Sabre invests in developing solutions that help agencies to improve productivity and optimise revenue, such as:

  • WebStart: A booking tool that enables agents to create a branded booking engine, and to capture and channel travel shoppers right through to their website.
  • Bargain Finder Max: A solution that provides agencies with the ability to sort and display hundreds of lower-priced itineraries available for flights worldwide.
  • SafePoint: An open & integrated product platform for corporations that combines all aspects of travel into a mobile experience. SafePoint is a mobile duty of care solution.
  • GetThere: A strategic partner that can streamline processes, improve supplier and contract management, and drive adoption, policy compliance, and most importantly savings.

Q: Are there now more Sabre products focused on the OTA market and how are you able to help traditional agents migrate to the new Apps and support software?

A: Sabre has developed specialised products for both the pure online travel agents (OTAs) and for offline agencies looking to go online.

The main online product that Sabre provides to OTAs is a comprehensive shopping suite, called Bargain Finder Max (BFM).

This API allows OTAs to receive relevant and qualified itineraries to present to their customers. It provides recommended itineraries, pricing and checks availability based on wide variety of business factors allowing each OTA to tailor this to their customer segment.

This is essential to ensure that OTAs have strong conversion with the customers they acquire. The APIs also provide decision support information to help their customers make good decisions, such as information on baggage restrictions, fare rules and important information on the flight such as terminal, mileage and plane model.

Sabre has gone further and developed APIs meeting the new requirements of customers such as allowing them to search by motivation. For instance, “I want a flight to a “beach destination” or “where is the cheapest place to fly to from Singapore this weekend”.

Over 150 different APIs have been developed to help OTAs and traditional agencies streamline their online business, ranging from searches to fulfilment. Sabre has also started to deliver on REST-based APIs, which is more popular with the next generation of online travel developers.

Finally, Sabre provides API for agencies to integrate their services and products into TripCase, Sabre’s industry-leading mobile travel app. This allows OTAs to provide an end-to-end travel experience, from start of trip planning to flight notifications during the trip.

Q: What’s your best-selling product for travel agents in Asia and how do you overcome the reluctance of travel agents to invest and buy specialised Apps and software services?

A: Agents are looking for new technology and innovative tools that will increase productivity, optimise their operations that can be easily implemented.

Sabre’s New Sabre Red Workspace (NSRW), is based on our online APIs, so it provides travel consultants with the latest shopping technology. It also uses some of the latest intelligent search APIs, new to online agencies, that can identify similar destinations for the same or even lower price than what was searched, and help recommend when is the best time to travel. This allows the travel consultant to provide personalized service and insights to their customers.

We just piloted the NSRW launch in India, where travel consultants indicated that its features provide a user-friendly interface and fast response.We are working on rolling-out NSRW in APAC over the course of the year. Overall the NSRW provides travel consultants with the flexibility that they require to best serve their customers, and helps to optimise their time.

Q: Travel research focuses mainly on the vast inbound markets of the region but what are the top destinations for outbound travel as far as your travel agency customers are concerned?

A: The data below is not Sabre exclusive. The top destinations listed below represent GDS market content only. Any bookings made directly with the airlines or LCC content GDS is not represented.

The top destinations are ordered by booking volume and are based on bookings from the respective Point of Sales (POS), sold within the POS, based on the last 12 months.

Q: How will AI and Chatbots make it more productive for travel planners when they reach out to potential customers?

A: Travellers are eager to find ways to save time when handling travel logistics, and Sabre is committed to evaluating new touch points and communication channels to better serve its customers. Exploring emerging technologies that can help improve the efficiency and satisfaction of agents and the travelling public by handling frequently asked basic support requests can be very beneficial to a business. For example, the chatbot can free-up agents to focus on more complex, value-added interactions with travellers, and better contribute to overall business performance.

More complex Chatbots coupled with AI can provide intelligent recommendations based on trending data for travellers with similar profiles to inspire travellers.

When done well, conversational interfaces are a rich opportunity to build relationships, deepen trust, and streamline interactions between businesses and consumers.

Sabre has launched a pilot programme of an AI-powered chatbot powered by Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services, a set of tools that organizations can use to add intelligent and conversational features to their applications.

It includes Language Understanding Intelligent Service, which provides simple tools to build language models that allow any application or bot to understand commands and act accordingly.

Sabre helps its travel agency customers to ensure they can focus on supporting more complex traveller requests, and this pilot programme will be insightful as we continue to develop such technologies, as we track how travellers learn about and interact with the bot.

Chatbots can play a role in providing travellers with the autonomy they want for routine requests, such as changing an existing flight reservation, freeing travel suppliers to provide more personal services for more complex needs.

Increasingly, companies are building chatbots to provide merchandising, service and support to customers. This can be as simple as booking a flight, checking availability, or upgrading a hotel room to a suite. On the more complex side, chatbots can be an extension of brand and digital marketing presences that have complicated personalities, back stories and virtual motivations that work to engage customers and potential customers, creating curiosity and goodwill towards a brand.

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