The travel agent community has amply demonstrated that it is resilient and relevant, despite speculation about the future of the retail segment. Predictions of the demise of traditional agencies have been voiced for years, but successful retailers have demonstrated their continuing commitment to customers by transforming their business models, adopting new technologies and providing unique personal consulting services, expertise and human touch that can't be duplicated electronically.
The growth and success of the home-based travel agent industry has been a significant example. Home-based and independent agencies have thrived by developing niches or specialty expertise, in addition to providing customized personal service and using technology to good advantage. (See sidebar.) Focus for Success
Similarly, traditional distribution systems have faced challenges from limited travel distributors. Sabre Travel Network has chosen to focus on delivering the breadth and depth of content its agencies need, as well as technologies, services and capabilities that help agencies earn more revenue and reduce costs, and end-to-end solutions to help retailers participate in a very efficient marketplace. One result is host agency Nexion, a Sabre Travel Network brand. Nexion's goal is to help members build revenue, reduce costs, enhance technology and marketing capabilities, and better serve customers.
Sabre's new, full-content, long-term agreements with AirTran Airways, Northwest Airlines and US Airways are also examples of its commitment to providing content for Sabre-connected agencies. The addition of discounted last-minute packages, additional tour operator vacation products, expanded cruise offerings and new dynamic packaging capabilities provide more earning opportunities. Plus, Sabre's purchase of TRAMS brings enhanced CRM and marketing capabilities, as well as unmatched back-office solutions to all its customers.
Agents have told Sabre their priorities. Among the highest was access to aggregated content. Going into 2006, Sabre made two long-term, full-content agreements that are resulting in lower price points for airlines. While these new price points will change the economic model between Sabre and its agency customers, it is working hard to find the right balance for all parties: agencies, suppliers, travelers and Sabre.
Guest author Chris Kroeger is senior vice president, Sabre Travel Network, North America.