Travel Industry – Innovating to deliver customer success through the pandemic and beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the way in which organizations operate, with a survey by McKinsey1 showing that responses to COVID-19 have increased the rate of adoption of digital technologies by several years. Working remotely became the new normal almost overnight, and as such there was a need to rapidly accelerate digital transformation.
One area in which businesses have had to adapt is customer implementation. As international lockdown measures prohibited face-to-face interactions, digital delivery capabilities became a priority.
Sabre Corporation, a leading software and technology company that powers the global travel industry, recognized the needs of clients during this challenging time and the necessity to innovate quickly. The Company took rapid action to employ technology and resources to transform to digital-only onboarding (integrating and acquainting customers with the Sabre platform), ensuring that the delivery was quick, simple and efficient for customers, from airlines to agencies.
Typically, implementation processes involve working hand and hand with the customer on the data migration, holding a comprehensive series of face-to-face meetings and training sessions, and thereby quickly establishing a good communication and trust between all parties, something that is critical for the change management. Having to change to a virtual-only implementation process almost overnight involved rapid transformation, innovation and adaptability.
“When Sabre was thrust into the remote work environment, we did not let our inability to physically work side-by-side with our customers get in the way of delivering on our commitments,” said Cem Tanyel, Chief Services Officer at Sabre Travel Solutions. “The way in which our teams at Sabre and our customers have collaborated to pioneer complex migrations virtually is truly impressive. Through adaptability, agility and innovation, we have been able to deliver successful implementations under new and challenging circumstances. We have gained valuable insights that have and will continue to change the way in which we operate in the years to come.”
On the airline front, since the beginning of the pandemic, multiple airlines, including ASKY, which is the first Sabre-hosted carrier in the west and central African market, Croatia Airlines, Gulf Air, and Vietnam Airlines, successfully migrated to Sabre Revenue Optimizer, Sabre’s leading revenue optimization solution, via remote delivery.
Croatia Airlines migrated in August 2020. Implementation for this complex project was planned on site for H1 2020, but when the pandemic unexpectedly stopped all traffic, technology implementation and training had to be handled virtually. Remote sessions leveraging virtual collaboration tools allowed for a continuous flow of group conversations and live interactions as well as project documentation accessible to all team members at any time. The project teams at Sabre and Croatia Airlines adapted to the change in circumstances, coming together and collaborating in a constructive, transparent, and productive way, reducing the geographical distance, and ensuring the success of the project.
Additionally, on the airline side, Japan Airlines’ migration to Sabre Crew Manager, which helps airlines control total crew cost while improving productivity, was also completed remotely.
On the agency side, despite the turbulent times, Sabre delivered an on-time implementation with BIDTravel, the leading business and leisure travel network in Southern Africa, and the cluster head of Rennies BCD Travel, Quadrel Travel Management t/a CWT, Travel Connections and Harvey World Travel. Sabre virtually mobilized global teams across five different time zones to accelerate the “go-live”; providing BIDTravel with the right technology to help it rebuild consumer confidence to travel, while crafting differentiated experiences.
“We had resources sitting in excess of 18 countries, remotely across the globe, and were able to achieve a project that typically takes between nine and 12 months in just three months,” said Herby Seedat, CIO, BIDTravel. “To operate in a multitude of countries remotely, meet an accelerated project delivery timeline and to achieve all of this virtually is digital transformation at its best.”
Further to this, Royal Travel, one of the leading travel companies in the United Kingdom, signed a multi-year agreement with Sabre in December. Royal Travel implemented Sabre’s intelligent GDS platform, Sabre Red 360, allowing it to harness more data, content and flexibility to differentiate its offering, manage its operations and workflow more effectively and to help agents offer their travelers an enhanced, more personalized experience.
Despite the challenging environment, Royal Travel’s businesses were successfully migrated to Sabre using an entirely digital program, which included virtual scoping completed ahead of signing the contract to increase the pipeline velocity. The delivery was particularly complex as, in addition to a website and call center, Royal Travel has a vast network of sub-agents who had to be considered in the implementation process. Sabre delivered virtual training to many of these sub-agents in their native language of Urdu, thereby helping minimize the change management risk.
“Sabre has shown great commitment and support towards our fast-evolving needs during this challenging time,” said Waseem Majid, Director of Royal Travel. “The rapid implementation of Sabre’s innovative solutions and tools meant that we could respond to the new market demands and provide personalized travel offers to each customer.”
“The pandemic has permanently changed the travel ecosystem requiring all players to evolve. Sabre is embracing this change and using it as a catalyst to innovate and drive forward in collaboration with our customers,” added Tanyel.
1 McKinsey, How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever, October 5, 2020