Travel agents are looking to online tools as well as customer relationship and front office technologies to help them recover from the pandemic.
Research from Sabre reveals that, alongside New Distribution Capability technology standard, these are the areas for investment for the retail community currently.
The study highlights the top five strategies being followed by agencies, as they look to recover, which include personalized bundles for travelers, targeting higher yield customer and investing in new technology.
Andy Finkelstein, senior vice president, agency sales and corporate solutions, Sabre Travel Solutions, believes there is opportunity for travel retailers around personalization.
Sabre announced its 10-year partnership with Google at the beginning of 2020 and talked about creating a marketplace for agents, airlines and hospitality customers.
In October last year, the global distribution giant released more details saying it was developing an artificial intelligence-driven technology platform to drive personalization in travel.
In the corporate context, Finkelstein says data analytic capabilities need to be brought into platforms and more sharing of data is required.
“The reality is what you have is very little individual personalization. The more we can work with agency and corporate partners to pull in profile data, loyalty data and trip history to the extent that corporate and travel agencies are willing to share, within GDPR guidelines, and start to leverage that using our machine learning capabilities that we built in partnership with Google, to continue to get smarter around the offers that get generated, how it gets aggregated, normalized, presented at a point of sale and, instead of being offered a list of 200 flights, you’re offered three that are really relevant.”
Finkelstein adds that there is some way to go to get to this and that while Sabre can build the infrastructure and algorithms data sharing is needed around “specific data versus aggregated data.”
He also identifies two ways Sabre’s AI capabilities can help agents going forward.
Agents are requesting that Sabre’s new airline storefront technology be more dynamic and configurable, according to Finkelstein.
He says the shelves on the storefront, which was unveiled in March, are pretty static currently but that there’s an opportunity to use machine learning and AI to “determine dynamically what is relevant on those shelves as opposed to it being configured in some static environment by an agency or being rules based.”
A further application of the emerging technologies is in providing travel call center agents with more customer context when calls come in thereby making time savings of up to 15%.
In its latest research Sabre reveals that the majority of agents say they are spending far more time on learning about rules and regulations, according to 88%, dealing with rebooking, 85%, learning about products and destinations, 66% and, communication with customers regarding bookings, 67%.
The research, with responses from 500 travel companies across EMEA, APAC and the Americas, also reveals that 80% believe pre-COVID levels of travel will happen in the next three years.
Finkelstein also touched on areas the company is looking to extend its “breadth and depth of content.”
Sabre’s distribution services are slanted towards full-service carriers (FSC) but there is a need to offer solutions for low-cost carriers which he says are growing three to four times faster than FSCs.
“Low-cost carriers have traditionally been more leisure oriented and we think those lines are going to blur and that content will become more relevant for corporations in the future.”