Sabre gives a peek at the 2017 refresh of its agency desktopNewsBy Sean O'Neil | June 28, 2016Share This article was originally published on Sabre has faced two challenges with its agency desktop, Sabre Red Workspace.First, people who become travel agents today are accustomed to the graphical interfaces of consumer digital products. Yet a lot of experienced travel agents — the “cryptic warriors” — still prefer to use the “classic”, command-driven format that desktop booking systems have had for decades.Second, airlines and hotels increasingly want to push to agents images, videos, and descriptions of their products and ancillaries, to help them up-sell travelers. But the familiar command-driven system can’t handle that rich content.The company’s solution to these problems is a fresh design for Sabre Red Workspace. The product is still being tested with 300 customers. Rollout is planned for early 2017, with smaller agencies being cut over first.The new system has two “presentation layers” that are linked so that an agent can flip back-and-forth between a command-driven format and a graphical one.Unlike before, an agent can flip from one look-and-feel to the other at any point. For example, if an inexperienced agent is stumped about how to do something in the graphical interface, a more experienced agent can come in, flip over to the command-driven format, and get the information they want the old-fashioned way.Each version, and the hybrid, are made possible by an updating of the emulator all agents have been using for years. The concept is not entirely new. Since 2009, Sabre and its rivals Travelport and Amadeus have attempted desktop solutions along these lines.What’s new?Agents who prefer the command-driven format can now access pop-up windows that pull in rich content, such as what guest rooms look like at a hotel. (Also new: the blue screen background has been replaced with black.)Agents who use the updated graphical interface will see more information that aims to help them close the sale quickly by persuading a traveler of the soundness of a recommendation.For example, when searching on an itinerary, an agent can see airfare trends over the past two weeks on nonstop and connecting flights, with a message summarizing the trend (“Fares are going up”) and travel seasonality (“Volume is low”).Inspirational shopping is also new. When agents are asked by a traveler, “I want to go to the Caribbean but I’m not sure where,” agents can ask the traveler about their interests and select from a drop-down menu of themes, such as gambling, water sports, or cultural attractions, and then find the best places for those activities within the Caribbean, sorted by lowest fare order.The new graphical design also enables agents to see and sell ancillaries and branded fares (if they're supplied by airlines) while remaining in the workflow.For example, on a route from JFK to Berlin, for instance, an agent is automatically prompted with a page for selling Air Berlin's additional services, such as the fees for transporting bicycle or sporting equipment.Enhanced map-based search is said to enable faster booking without having to leave the tool. Say an agent wants to know if alternate airports might have a better deal for a given itinerary. Sabre Red Workspace will auto-populate a map that loads in airport codes and let the agent re-shop with a single click.Sabre believes that user-experience and design are areas where its software can outshine rivals, according to CEO Tom Klein, who spoke to reporters at the company’s annual customer conference Travel Technology Exchange (TTX) Conference in Miami.NB: Disclosure – author’s attendance was supported by Sabre.