Travel Trade MENA: Please give us an outline on the evolution in the travel industry in general?
Abdul-Razzaq Iyer: I see three different drivers for this evolution: the traveller, the challenges faced by the travel providers, and the growth of emerging technology.
The travel industry is going through continuous transformation, constantly adapting to the increasing expectations of travellers, which is higher and more diverse than ever before. Travellers are accustomed to tailored offerings in other industry and they expect similar level of personalisation from travel providers.
Creating an exceptional and personalised experience through an individual approach continues to be a significant demand for travellers and a success factor for those companies that embrace it. As a result, digital transformation has become a rising priority for travel players due to its ability to generate more targeted, personalized offerings.
Second, is the change in the distribution landscape. The continued growth of low-cost carriers (LCCs) and downward pressure on airline pricing are driving factors in this change. Airlines need to differentiate their offerings and gain a competitive edge to improve loyalty and maximise revenues which makes us take the lead, as the global technology provider, to develop and deliver our Beyond NDC strategy.
And last, the industry is challenged to adopting rising emerging technologies, especially artificial intelligence and machines learning, which need to be deployed to elevate the travel industry to the next level. The industry is testing and deploying these technologies to benefit all travel ecosystem.
Travel Trade MENA: Why, in your opinion, is technology becoming the buzz word for all players from airline, hotels and travel agencies?
Abdul-Razzaq Iyer: If you look at the industry evolution, the key driver to all those changes is technology! Technology has already changed the way travel is made.
We are in continuous discussion with industry leaders and stakeholders from airlines, hotels, travel agencies, corporates and travellers to find new and innovative ways to solve travel complexity. There’s a very strong understanding now amongst our customers that technology will play an increasingly key role in the future of their business, thus we are committed to invest USD9 billion in the coming five years for technology innovation.
Travel Trade MENA: Tell us about NDC, and how Sabre is tackling the concerns of all?
Abdul-Razzaq Iyer: With the distribution model changing, and rise of NDC, travel stakeholders started exploring ways to implement and adapt to these new standards.
Sabre is not only embracing the NDC standard but innovating beyond NDC with initiatives that allow airlines to build an end-to-end retailing ecosystem that intelligently optimises product and gives control of products and services distributed across all channels. Additionally, it provides agencies with richer content to provide personalized, relevant offers.
We strongly believe that providing airlines with the technical capabilities to merchandise and distribute their content through both the direct and indirect sales channels is critically important. Delivering breadth and depth of content through the Sabre marketplace remains a strategic focus for us. Sabre continues to ensure our agency customers have the most relevant content fully integrated into the agent workflow.
Travel Trade MENA: What are the upcoming products of Sabre?
Abdul-Razzaq Iyer: The focus for this year is the launch of the Sabre Red 360 which is the new travel agent desktop product that will be rolled out across the ME market by end of this year. Another product is the content services for lodging, which is all about us making a commitment to a marketplace that holds products that are beyond just airline products. Content services for lodging is API based service that distributes lodging content and aggregated lodging content from all major wholesalers and direct contracts.
This year, we continue working on our Beyond NDC strategy, provide products that enable our customers to best serve their customers, improve efficiency and increase their revenue.
Another product is Sabre Virtual Payment. Traditional payment methods (credit cards, BTAs, cash and accounts payable) carry fraud risk and reconciliation process costs. Sabre Virtual Payments delivers a solution that help traveller quickly overcome these obstacles. It is easy, flexible and highly secure alternative to traditional payment methods with multiple currency options.
In summary, we are committed to a rich marketplace, allowing efficient and easy access to travel agencies through a new separate workspace. We are committed to giving the fullest dashboard of products to travel agencies, and that is not only air content but lodging, ground and sea content. And lastly products that increase efficiency and increase yield for the travel agents and enable airlines to customise travel packages.
Travel Trade MENA: Anything else you would like to add?
Abdul-Razzaq Iyer: We are committed to support the Middle East market with latest technology and innovative solutions and constantly looking for top talents to help us transform the industry and solve its travel complexity.