Sabre challenges UK agents to put their best foot forward

The Sabre Travel Network GDS and technology provider has claimed to be making inroads into the UK market following a marketing campaign targeting 100 corporate, leisure and online travel agencies.

Speaking to Travolution in Krakow where Sabre has a major technology development hub, Harald Eisenaecher, EMEA senior vice president, said growth in Europe was a key focus for the Dallas-based firm.

He described Sabre as a challenger in the European market against market leader Amadeus on the continent and Travelport, which owns the Galileo and Worldspan GDSs, in the UK.

But he said five new accounts recently won in the UK was testament to Sabre’s ability to grow in markets it has not traditionally been strong in.

Sabre has brought in a new management team for EMEA and now has three vice-presidents, including Stephane Aita, its first dedicated specifically to western Europe markets.

Eisenaecher said: “The industry has been in a certain state for many years. If you come from other industries you think about how you can change the market status.

“Almost every industry changes over the years, so it can be done. We want to grow in all segments of the UK market; corporate, leisure and online.”

Two weeks ago Sabre kicked off a new UK campaign. This saw 100 chief executives and managing directors of UK travel agencies sent a single red Nike running shoe.
They were invited to ‘take the first step’ by opening up discussions with Sabre and on doing so were offered a pair of the trainers.

Sabre said the campaign was intended to show that the firm is ‘on the front foot’ in Europe and that it is able to provide its travel agency customers with technology that is the perfect fit.

Aita said firms who have opted to switch to Sabre were up and running within weeks making bookings on the Sabre Red desktop system.

“People switch because they cannot expand their business the way they want to. They need innovation to better serve their customers. They realise that if they do not do something they are going to lose market share.”  

The firm claims to invest $500 million annually in developing its technology and the Krakow facility, with 1,300 employees has seen recent rapid expansion.

New online and central Europe vice president Frank Bacher will be supported by the resources in Krakow to “really conquer the EMEA landscape from an online perspective”, said Eisenaecher.

“We are building on the experiences of companies in other industries who have made the transformation from a challenger brand in EMEA,” he added.

“What we want to convey to customers in Europe is it’s sometimes about taking the first step. If you have a market that’s traditionally focused on one player people may not know other alternatives.”

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