Daniel Naoumovitch, Sabre Travel Network Middle East’s chief executive, raised a toast when the Sabre Global Distribution System (GDS) won the accolade of the World’s Leading GDS/ CRS for a record twelfth consecutive year at the World Travel Awards in London last month.
According to Naoumovitch, Sabre GDS remains the most efficient and profitable way for travel suppliers to distribute their products and travel agents. TTN caught up with Naoumovitch to find out about Sabre Travel Network’s plans for the Middle East and more.
TTN: What has Sabre Travel Network Middle East achieved since it launched earlier this year?
Daniel Naoumovitch: Since our official launch, we have sought to strengthen our position in the market by increasing our local capabilities in order to enhance our customer service and deliver even more value to our customers.
What does your recently-opened Middle East head office in Bahrain offer?
At our Bahrain headquarters, we provide state-of-the-art training facility and a regional customer contact centre equipped with the latest telephony and AV technology so that our travel providers and customers receive a high level of support and training that will enable them to evolve their business models, reduce their costs and maximise their sales.
Given the stiff competition, is GDS fighting for survival?
No, the GDS business remains at the core of Sabre Holdings’ business proposition. However, we have realised that the business of travel commerce – that is, marketing, sales and distribution – is evolving and we are evolving with it.
In a way, aren’t you competing with your travel agencies when you claim a presence in all distribution channels?
Well, we have a strong position in every segment of the travel distribution channel but we have to acknowledge that, occasionally, we may end up competing for some travel bookings with some of our travel agency customers. It would be unrealistic and dishonest for us to pretend otherwise. However, we strongly believe that our multi-channel distribution strategy works to the advantage of our traditional travel agency customers.
Thanks to the internet, travel providers have a wider range of distribution options than ever before. And, increasingly, they’re using the internet to encourage direct bookings. In order to continue getting the best fares and the widest range of content, traditional GDS’ have to give travel providers greater distribution value than ever before. And Sabre Holdings is doing this by extending its ownership influence in every channel of travel distribution.
By offering travel providers greater distribution value, we are in a better position to negotiate the best fares and widest range of content which, in turn, we make available to our travel agency customers.
Without this negotiating power, we would become weak and of little value to travel providers.
Is there any threat to GDS’?
Some people are referring to Limited Travel Distributors (LTDs) as replacements to the GDS but that’s far from true. We are talking to different airlines all the time and we’ve yet to hear one of the major airlines tell us they no longer want the GDS. Airlines continue to use the GDS for a reason: it sells the highest number of high-yield tickets, for the lowest cost.
LTDs are not global. They have announced plans to launch solutions that may offer a sub-set of airlines a solution for a sub-set of their bookings at a lower distribution cost to the airline. They’re not ready to handle international distribution at this point. Moreover, the new entrant solution providers do not offer a comprehensive travel management system and do not have the infrastructure to support travel management companies or corporations.
Why would an agent continue to use a GDS when he can go direct to an airline’s own website?
Ticket prices or direct costs are only a proportion of the costs involved in booking a ticket. For example, it costs a business travel agency 45 euros to book through a web site as they have to follow up the booking process manually. GDS’ are also uniquely placed to help an agent arrange a complex travel itinerary; something that an airline website simply cannot do. GDS’ also provide an integrated service, supporting mid and back office. Furthermore, the Sabre GDS puts over 420 participating airlines on the desktops of more than 50,000 agency locations in over 110 countries so that agencies can compare and ensure that the best available carrier is used.
By Shafquat Ali