Sabre Travel Network
will use strategic alliances and acquired technology to make tour operator packages and more leisure travel products available in its global distribution system (GDS). The move is designed to help the company broaden its customer base in Europe and the enhanced content is expected to start appearing in the Sabre system in the next three months.The company has established a leisure travel division in its European business, headquartered in London. This will be headed by David Brown, who has been appointed vice president, European leisure. He was previously Sabre Travel Network’s director for the UK, Ireland and the Nordic region.
“In addition to our traditional distribution role we’re now also in the business of supplying in-depth leisure products to travel agencies,” Brown said. “This includes products that have not traditionally been available in GDSs.”
An important part of the company’s new focus will involve strategic partnerships with high-profile leisure travel providers. Examples include a drive to provide European cruise products by August this year and the introduction in the fourth quarter this year of specially negotiated European ‘Sabre Exclusives’ hotel rates.
The company also plans to use technology from Hamburg-based Dillon Communication Systems (DCS), which it acquired in November last year, to make tour operator holiday packages available to travel agents in markets outside Germany, via the Sabre GDS. Brown said Sabre Travel Network was already in discussions with several operators.
Sabre Travel Network says its leisure strategy will be tailored to each specific European market. Local market needs and requirements will dictate whether the strategy is led by DCS technology, merchant content or strategic partnerships with content providers. But the company did confirm that it was investigating the possibility of using the DCS technology in the UK.
“We are using the Merlin product from DCS to sell tour and other leisure travel products in Germany,” Brown said. “We have won significant leisure agency business from Amadeus and seen a 25 percent increase in German leisure bookings between January and May this year alone. We believe there is potential to duplicate this success in the UK.”
Brown said Germany and the UK were Sabre Travel Network’s immediate priorities for the leisure focus. He expects a substantial amount of new leisure content to be available for Sabre Connected agents in the UK by the time of World Travel Market in November this year.
He said the new focus on leisure content would complement Sabre Travel Network’s leadership in the UK business travel arena, and was driven by the need for GDSs to expand their distribution reach in a deregulated environment.
“To be of greatest value to travel providers we need to be in more travel agencies than ever before. This means we need to give these agencies a greater range of travel content than ever before, and the leisure arena is a clear opportunity for growth,” he said.
Brown has spearheaded a number of recent successes for Sabre Travel Network in the UK. Last month (June) the company reported a record number of travel agency conversions to its system, was selected as the preferred GDS for Advantage Travel Centres’ Business Travel Focus Group, and was nominated as one of two preferred GDSs for the no-frills carrier Flybe.
“David’s unique experience serves him well to leverage our leisure assets from DCS and combine them with new partnerships and products to make Sabre Travel Network a compelling force in the leisure market throughout the region,” said Richard Adams, the company’s senior vice president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“David is the most customer-focused person I have ever met and he has an intimate knowledge of the UK market, where the opportunity for the leisure business is greatest outside Germany. I have chosen him specially to roll out a leisure strategy that will appeal to both our travel provider and travel agency customers alike.”
Brown’s UK, Ireland and Nordic responsibilities will be assumed by Reet Wiseman, previously vice president of global accounts for Sabre Travel Network. She headed the company’s Canadian business between 1991 and 2000.
“Reet’s experience in running a national Sabre Travel Network business will be invaluable as she takes over from David in driving the company from strength to strength in this market,” Adams said.