Sabre (NYSE: TSG) today announced Virtually There Web site, an innovative personal travel domain that provides travelers with up-to-the-minute, itinerary and destination information via the Internet. Harnessing the power of the Sabre system and Internet technology, the site offers information tailored to individual traveler preferences and focused on a specific trip already booked through the Sabre system. Virtually There has the potential to reach 30 million unique travelers who book reservations through Sabre connected travel agents and corporate travel offices each year. The Sabre system handles 350 million bookings per year or nearly 40 percent of all reservations booked through travel agencies throughout the world.
Once a booking is confirmed through the Sabre system, a secure personal travel domain is created specifically for the traveler’s trip. The custom site contains the trip itinerary, gate and flight information, and destination information such as weather and maps. By year-end, the site will provide access to selected city overviews, which includes information on restaurants, shopping, events and attractions. By mid-2000, travelers will be able to create a personal profile, which will customize information and offers to their areas of interest. For example, by mid-2000 an individual who is traveling to New York City and has created a Virtually There profile indicating an interest in the arts could receive information on an opera that is playing at the Met during his/her trip-stored within an itinerary housed by all of the details of the trip.
Next year, travelers will receive e-mails from their travel agents containing text-format itineraries as well as hot links to their Virtually There personal travel domain, where they can access graphical itineraries and customized destination information. Additionally, travelers can forward the itinerary that is housed on the Virtually There Web site to others in need of the information and download it to a variety of handheld devices. The itinerary is currently available in three languages—English, French, and Spanish—and is instantly updated with any changes made.
The site, which is password protected to ensure privacy, can be accessed today at http://www.virtuallythere.sabre.com. To reach their personal site, travelers would then type in their Sabre reservation number, available from Sabre connected travel agents, corporate travel offices or via the Sabre online travel expert, Travelocity.com, and Sabre Business Travel Solutions. A sample trip is also available for review.
“We’re very enthusiastic about this new offering. It not only gives travelers a convenient and easy way to manage their travel plans, but also gives travel suppliers new avenues for responding to the needs of their customers and building loyalty among them,” said Eric J. Speck, Sabre executive vice president for marketing and sales. “We’ll continue to take the pulse of travelers and the travel community to ensure we are meeting their needs and to identify new applications and services that we can add to Virtually There to create even greater customer satisfaction.”
Virtually There is another example of Sabre’s ability to incubate new businesses using its travel industry and technology expertise. Sabre launched Travelocity.com, the online travel expert, in 1996. Since that time, Travelocity.com has grown to be one of the leaders in online travel. Virtually There joins Travelocity.com in the growing suite of Sabre e-business solutions for travel and transportation.
By reflecting the individual preferences of each traveler, Virtually There offers a true one-to-one-marketing opportunity for travel-related businesses—travel agents, travel suppliers and merchants—and a potential marketplace up to 30 million travelers. Virtually There represents a multi- million dollar business opportunity for Sabre, with a variety of revenue sources including commissions from online affiliates such as Amazon.com, travel supplier messages, advertising fees and sponsorship of specific sections within the itineraries.
According to research conducted for Sabre by Roper Starch Worldwide, 40 percent of leisure travel in the last 12 months was to a new destination. First-time travelers are prime targets for receiving the content and offerings made available through Virtually There. The research also concludes that a large segment of travelers, both business and leisure, have a desire to be involved in and in touch with their plans. Virtually There responds to those needs by enabling the traveler to tailor the information they receive and by providing 24 hour-a-day access to that information via a secure web site.
When fully functional next year, Virtually There Version 2.0 will provide one-stop, real-time electronic access to a full complement of information and services.
Virtually There is a value-added product for travel agencies and suppliers providing unique cross-selling opportunities and a means of potentially increasing their revenue streams. These cross-selling opportunities arise when a traveler is offered a promotion for a component of travel not already booked such as a rental car or hotel room.
Sabre connected travel agents will also benefit from the brand identity garnered from their travel agency logo and marketing messages being prominently displayed to their customers in both e-mail messages and within each customer’s personal travel domain. In 2000, travel agents will be able to send customized marketing messages targeted to their customers in order to stimulate additional bookings.
Another key benefit for travel agencies is Sabre, via Virtually There, will e-mail itineraries to passengers, upon request, in a format that includes the agency name, logo, e-mail address and marketing message. This capability reduces the operational cost associated with printing, faxing, and e-mailing itineraries. Additionally, this service will increase agency productivity by minimizing the number of non-booking calls and requests.
Travel suppliers will benefit from point-of-sale opportunities, premium vendor listings, itinerary sponsorship opportunities and the option to offer coupons. Merchants will be able to integrate their sites with Virtually There, reaching nearly 30 million unique travelers as well as 42,000 travel agencies in 112 countries through the Sabre reservation system.