Despite high inflation and the slowing economy, Sabre president Kurt Ekert says he is optimistic about travel’s
continued recovery heading into 2023. Airlines are currently under capacity, and he expects capacity to climb 10 to 15% in the first quarter of the new year.
“If you look at the macro picture,
demand is very robust,” Ekert says, noting that he foresees a rise in demand
for both corporate and leisure travel.
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The 26-year travel industry veteran
shared his outlook during an Executive Interview at The Phocuswright Conference
in November in Phoenix.
Ekert stepped down as CEO and president of CWT in May 2021 and in
January 2022 he became president of Sabre. He has also held executive roles at
Travelport, GTA, Orbitz and Continental Airlines.
At Sabre, Ekert focuses on running the business day-to-day and
improving product execution while CEO Sean Menke focuses on the investor
community and macro-strategy.
Along with his respect for Sabre’s position in the travel
ecosystem, Ekert says he joined the company because he sees opportunities to do
more to enhance Sabre’s airline distribution capabilities.
I’m a big believer in just being a two-sided marketplace and making sure that you solve things not unilaterally for one party but for all the key stakeholders involved.
Kurt Ekert - Sabre
expects NDC adoption to grow in the coming years because carriers want to sell
as dynamically in B2B as they do in B2C, which calls for “becoming better
retailers and being able to better differentiate their product offerings.”
“The good news is that the technology is
finally catching up with the aspirations of the last 15 or 20 years, and I
think you will see more symbiotic relationship between suppliers and the likes
of Sabre as we go forward,” he says.
In a “coalition
of the willing,” the travel management company or online travel agency, a technology intermediary like Sabre, and
the airline all need to align their interests.
“I think it’s about finding the happy
medium in terms of technology and a commercial solution that works for
everybody,” he says. “I’m a big believer in just being a two-sided marketplace
and making sure that you solve things not unilaterally for one party but for
all the key stakeholders involved.”
The commercial model is a “pro-competitive
model” that “generally works,” according to Ekert. The cost of distributing
through Sabre tends to be 1- or 2% of the cost of distribution. By
most competitive standards of other industries, it’s “a very effective cost of
Sabre generally provides a higher-yield
traveler to its airline and hotel customers than they’re able to get through B2C
channels, according to Ekert.
Ekert supports the move to
the cloud from mainframe or legacy hardware, because the cloud reduces the cost
to compute and “provides a much more nimble platform in which folks like us can
innovate at a very different pace.” Sabre’s hospitality solutions business is
fully on the cloud.
Watch PhocusWire senior reporter
Linda Fox’s full interview with Ekert below.
Executive Interview: The Sabre View - The Phocuswright Conference 2022