The travel industry has made a mistake in thinking it knows best about what consumers want, according to Sabre UK managing director Eric Hallerberg.
Speaking to Travolution ahead of next week’s Travel Technology Europe trade show, which Sabre is sponsoring, Hallerberg said exciting times are ahead in travel.
He said Sabre is fortunate to be at the intersection of travel technology and to be able to play a part in forging the future of the travel sector.
But he warned travel firms not to presume they know how the modern business or leisure traveller wants to engage with brands.
Hallerberg said new disruptive technologies are having a rapid impact on the sector meaning transformation will be a key theme of TTE 2016.
“Whether it customisation or personalisation of the travel value chain, it’s become much more sophisticated and the opportunity with technology to reach out to the traveller at all points in the chain is incredible. That’s something which has changed dramatically in the last year.
“I do not like to talk about technology for technology’s sake but if you look at millennials and think about how they are digital natives and the way they engage with the world in a different way.
“These are the leisure travellers of now, and they are the business travellers of the future and we see behavioural change in how travellers engage with the world. I think the industry has made a mistake to think we know all about this.”
Hallerberg said the millennial generation is much more willing to give over personal information via channels like social media as long as the exchange is seen as fair and that they get something of value and relevant in exchange.
But he said it will only be trusted brands that can ensure data security and appropriate use of personal data to provide a compelling personal service that will be allowed to thrive in this new world.
“You have to be trusted partners,” he said. “People mostly see Facebook as a trusted secure partner. If they are willing to give up that much personal information you have to build that trust in the marketplace.
“The one that will destroy that is a major security issue. If you build a trusted brand and invest in security and do not see the issue of privacy as a major issue. People are seeing value – it’s a trade off.”
Hallerberg said another mistake the industry makes is to compartmentalise leisure and business travel because there is an increasing blurring of the lines – something referred to as ‘bleisure’ travel by the sector.
He said there may not be as much frequency of purchase or engagement in terms of leisure travel to build the personal data to be more relevant, but usually in business travel the traveller is not spending their own money.
So what is preventing travel from being cutting edge in this area, compared to the likes of Amazon which Hallerberg said was “light years ahead” of the travel industry.
“It needs someone to take that first step. One of the problems is institutional inertia. We are by nature a very conservative industry. Some of the players out there are doing interesting things, but they tend to be the newcomers.
“For the players who are relevant from a market share and market power perspective, it’s a slow industry to change.
“You can probably see in two years time where you want to be and how to engage the different stakeholders and different revenue models but the problems come with the transition to get there, the disruption to the existing model and the potential loss of market share. That’s not something that excites boards and investors.”
As well as being a headline sponsor of TTE for a second year running, the GDS and global technology provider is also sponsoring the show’s Innovate theatre which will showcase all that’s new in travel technology.
On the second day of TTE the Disrupt stream will culminate with the final of the Disrupt Awards, when five finalists based on online voting that closed this week, will present in a bid to win over four judges in a Dragon’s Den-style session.
The winner will receive a three-hour consultancy session with travel technology entrepreneur and investor Matt Zito and the Travel Startups Incubator advisory team, and an exhibition stand at TTE 2017, worth £8,000.
The eight finalists that went to the public vote were:
• bd4travel delivers digital empathy capabilities to understand and engage with every anonymous visitor and serve relevant offers and services in real-time.
• SmartStay is a mobile platform for the hospitality industry to market services and promotions that engage guests throughout their stay. SmartStay’s USP is its machine learning algorithm which, using guest history and Facebook information, shows the most relevant information.
• Reputize provides hotels with tools to monitor, collect and push guest reviews to OTAs such as TripAdvisor, HolidayCheck and Zoover. It features on-site feedback capturing tools.
• Trip Republic is a social travel planner and booking tool whereby users can plan and book all parts of a trip together with friends and create a seamless travel experience.
• Waynaut is a platform that allows every website or app to show their users the best way to get where they need, with a simple REST API.
• YAMGU helps travellers to plan trips in just minutes. It organises day-by-day activities according to distances, opening/closing times, visit length and weather forecast.
• OLSET powers personalisation for OTAs and TMCs based on a recommendation system built around the world’s largest database of categorised traveller review sentiments.
• OnRoute is a smartphone or tablet with embedded SIM card and customised software, providing a Wi-Fi hotspot for 3G/LTE internet access worldwide.