Travel is rebounding and Sabre Hospitality, the industry’s leading global hospitality technology company, continues to play an integral role in empowering the hospitality industry with a highly-flexible technology platform that will help drive performance and create a new market for personalized travel.
ArabiaTravelNews.com spoke to Scott Wilson, President, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, who speaks about this major shift and how Sabre’s technology is positioned to help the industry recover while travel returns to this new norm.
What is the role of technology in today’s recovering hospitality landscape?
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted tourism on unprecedented levels and as such has been a catalyst for a long-simmering change in the hospitality industry. Patterns, norms, and challenges have changed, and hoteliers have been forced to rethink what their product is or can be in the future and how they approach content and product creation, distribution and fulfillment.
Technology plays a key role in this time of change, enabling hoteliers to adapt and ushering in a new era of personalized travel that will present more opportunities for businesses and a better experience for travelers. Connected, seamless and personalized experiences are expected, and the use of digital solutions has increased. This, in turn, has generated further data, thereby creating a wealth of new possibilities for hoteliers.
In this time of recovery, hoteliers are looking for a shift from siloes and fragmentation to a more holistically integrated environment that makes it easier for hoteliers to manage and help to drive revenue and reduce cost and understand customers better.
What does the SynXis platform bring for hoteliers?
Many large hotel companies are still on their own home-grown technology platforms, meaning there’s a large, fixed cost. Contrast that to a model where you pay by the transaction, thereby only incurring an expense if you book a guest and it’s understandable that hoteliers want to move to a more valuable model. On top of that, hoteliers want to streamline all of their processes. The pandemic means many are trying to do more with less and having more seamless workflows with more efficient business processes means they can spend more time with guests and less time on everything else.
The SynXis platform is at the heart of Sabre Hospitality, powering a wide array of integrated solutions that unlock exceptional value and revenue for hoteliers. This platform helps hoteliers personalize the experience at every touch point of the guest journey, from shopping and researching to booking, pre-stay, arrival, in-stay, checkout, and post-stay.
The SynXis plug-and-play open architecture – paired with a comprehensive library of API’s – allows hoteliers to choose their own third-party services for a fully customized travel technology solution that is remarkably nimble and agile.
What are the new innovative solutions that have been implemented to help hotels in the post pandemic climate?
The need for agile travel distribution is more important now than ever. Successfully navigating the shifts in the industry starts with a diversified retail and distribution strategy, meaning hotels must be present in all travel booking channels, while stimulating demand in a smart, flexible and creative way. Hoteliers are looking for end-to-end tech solutions that remove complexities and help maximize available opportunities.
Advances in open-source technology and open APIs allow hoteliers to work in a smart, flexible and agile way, whilst automation capabilities and platform solutions capture and support guests’ needs, allow better integration and easier distribution and reduce revenue costs while increasing consumption and revenue. It’s vital hotels have the right technology partners with flexible, scalable and forward-thinking solutions.
At Sabre, we believe a hotelier’s technology must accomplish the following: drive commercial performance, enable operational excellence, on a platform that works. These are the three core tenets of Sabre´s value proposition to the hospitality industry.
How important is personalization today? Together with Sabre, how can hotel companies achieve this?
With personalization being the new expectation in so many industries, travel must deliver the same tailored approach, to further enhance the guest experience. Retailing within hospitality is no longer just attaching a rate to a room for a period of time, it is much more about the value for each individual client, the connections with the guests, in a way and at a level we could never imagine before.
Research has shown that providing consumers with personalized offers translates to more purchases, so Sabre is innovating technology to help hoteliers to retail and fulfil personalized packages. In addition to greater top-line revenue, the intelligent retailing approach Sabre Hospitality envisions yields other positive outcomes including higher guest satisfaction and guest retention, and strategic differentiation from competitors.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence help to identify the patterns that make recognition in the unique aspects of the traveler desire. SynXis Intelligent Retailing is being developed to allow hoteliers to rapidly create new products, services, merchandise, and experiences and effectively retail them using artificial intelligence.
Guests’ habits and preferences are constantly changing, what can hotels do to adapt to changing needs and travel practices?
Driven by the retailing industry, guests are increasingly seeking a more personalized travel experience that goes far beyond room-based attributes (such as view, size, high floor, away from the elevator etc.). And this is especially true when they cannot really choose the travel they would like due to the restrictions we are still seeing. While it’s great to give guests choices, narrowing those choices to room only attributes reduce guest satisfaction and limits revenue generation for hoteliers. In the end, it’s just a room unit.
By using predictive analytics to understand potential guest booking behaviors and patterns, hotels can return a unique offering or experience to the customer that is not tied to or limited to a room reservation. This enables a transformation into an e-Commerce model of inventory (or infinite #SKU’s) that sells living spaces, working spaces, services, policies, experiences, merchandise and more. This could secure higher guest satisfaction and retention, greater top-line revenue, and strategic differentiation from competitors.
The intelligent retailing strategy Sabre is developing will expedite this transformation by generating personalized offers for consumers, meaning hoteliers can differentiate themselves by providing their guests with unique choices.
What are some of the Digital & Mobile Technology trends in the industry today?
Guests want to be more in control of their experience and their journey, so our customers are seeing a tremendous increase in the usage of apps and digital touch points. A bi-product of that is the data – with more digital interactions we can learn more about guest behavior. At the moment our hoteliers customers are reacting to guests’ needs and what they are communicating to them, but when they have more data available, they will be able to be more proactive and come with suggestions before guests ask for it.
With guest data and a more local perspective, hotels are in a prime position to open up many new revenue streams, increase loyalty and trust and appeal to a wider segment of guests while building resilience in times of recession and increased performance in periods of growth.
Our customers are telling us that they have had a lot of success with AI incorporated into the apps and due to the pandemic this has evolved and will only accelerate. The in-room technology is where we will see AI accelerating the most, especially through voice technology. We have seen an increase in all usage on digital touch points, but it is the data and the insights that will allow us to really improve and personalize the customer journey.
Are customer-facing technology just as important as back-office technologies? If yes, why?
Technology has been at the core of travel for decades, powering some of the most innovative reservation platforms in history. Today, however, many hoteliers find themselves saddled with legacy technology that is difficult to upgrade, maintain and integrate with modern APIs (application programming interfaces). Not to mention, legacy technology is often the root cause of high friction at both customer and hotelier staff touch points.
Our solutions allow hoteliers to eliminate the fixed costs associated with in-house technology and utilize a transactional pricing model that adjusts based upon demand. By leaving the technology work to us, clients can spend more time focusing on guests and less time worrying about the back-end systems.
What are some other new innovations Sabre hopes to achieve going forward?
There’s been a lot of interest following the announcement of our 10-year partnership with Google Cloud, as well as our introduction of Sabre Travel AI. This is a first of its kind technology for the travel industry, capitalizing on state-of-the art AI technology and advanced machine learning capabilities that sense, analyze and predict using consumer behaviors – all fueled by real-time marketplace data insights and sophisticated, travel-specific knowledge. We’re confident this technology will enable our customers to better meet the demands of the post-pandemic traveler and create expanded revenue and margin growth opportunities for our travel partners across all sectors.
How has Middle East region adapted to the new norm?
Parts of the region are still facing adverse circumstances as a result of the pandemic. However, the industry continues to look to the future. By embracing existing and emerging technologies, hoteliers know they can place themselves in a position of strength as we move through and beyond the current pandemic to better times. During the last six months we have seen that hospitality was starting to recover faster than other segments of the travel industry and that’s understandable when you consider that flights, particularly international, are still grounded to a large extent because of geographical border restrictions.
However, there is still a huge pent-up demand for travel and, even if they can’t travel as far afield as they would have pre-pandemic, people are traveling domestically to get the holiday experience at home. We’ve seen this trend with travelers staycationing in their own cities or regions: families still want a break from home, where the boundaries have blurred between personal and professional life.