Sabre is a complex company that is difficult to fit into a specific industry. Although they were once a division of American Airlines, and remain closely tied to the airline industry, they are not direct competitors of other airline companies. Sabre has several business lines, therefore determining true competitors change with each business unit. Because the core competency is its computer reservation system, the competitive focus will be on other computer reservation system’s companies. Currently Sabre is the market leader. Amadeus Global Travel Distribution, Galileo International, and Worldspan GDS are the other leaders in the CRS industry.
Amadeus is a GDS and technology provider base out of Spain, and traded on Madrid Stock Exchange. They serve the marketing, sales, and distribution needs of the international travel and tourism industries. The data network and database is comprehensive and is the largest in Europe. The Amadeus system provides access to hotels, rental cars, airlines, ferry, rail, insurance and tour operators through 50,000 travel agency location and 8,2000 airline sales office.
A key development at Amadeus is the agreement with priceline.com and acquisition of vacation.com. Amadeus Global Travel Distribution System will be connected to NameYourOwnPrice Services of Priceline.com. Acquiring vacation.com gives the strong European company a foothold in the highly sought after U.S. market. Vacation.com is North American’s leading vacation selling network. One third of U.S. leisure travel are vacation.com products. Through this strategy Amadeus gains the agency only extranet that provides members news, preferred supplier information, and marketing material.
The dot.com strategies fives the company an opportunity to develop an on-line strategy to compete with Sabre’s highly successful on-line website Travelocity.com. Amadeus has introduced an interface that maps Amadeus products into an Internet presentation. This technology allows interfacing with the GDS to be supported through a variety of communication types. Although Amadeus is determining the role of the Internet on its business, they are not moving away from their commitment to the travel agency model. They are quick to point out that a relatively small percentage of travel is booked over the Internet. With only 3% of all travel transaction booked on-line, Amadeus believes that the future of travel remains with travel agencies.
Galileo holds 10% of the market share of GDS. Galileo data center gives travel agencies, corporate travel managers, and Internet users the ability to book travel by accessing schedule, availability, and pricing information from its state-of-the-art data center, housed in Rosemont, Illinois. Trip.com is Galileo’s Internet initiative that allows mobile business professionals to access their premier one-stop technology solutions in addition to travel services. They also provide advances telecommunication services for customers in the travel industry as well as a variety of other non-travel related industries.
Currently Galileo is considering what direction to take the company. On October 30, 2000, they announced they are looking at strategic options including the possibility of a sale to a strategic buyer of leveraged buyout. In recent months Galileo’s stock performance has been poor because of concerns of the role of the Internet on its business. Their Internet strategy was hurt when one of its key clients, preview.com was purchased by travelocity.com, a Sabre company, over a year ago. TravelGalileo.com was presented to the travel agency community to overwhelming interest at the American Society of Travel Agents Congress. They have now registered over 400 new agencies on its sites, with more expected. Galileo has traditional used the travel agency channel and understands that the Internet is the channel with the greatest opportunity for growth. Through trip.com and travelgalileo.com, Galileo believes they will be able to improve their position in the Internet channel.
Worldspan is the youngest of Sabre’s competitors. Worldspan was founded in February 1990 through an agreement between Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, and Trans World Airline to combine and integrate three different internal reservation systems. In 1993 Worldspan entered the airline technology services business. Its global data center is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. They have three lines of business: travel supplier services, e-commerce, and travel distribution for the travel industry. Worldspan processes more than 50% of all online travel agency bookings through the 20,800 travel agencies that uses its reservation system to access hundreds of the world’s travel service suppliers. Worldspan has a presence in 70 countries or territories worldwide.
Worldspan recognizes the influence of the Internet and have forged a partnership with travelstore.com. Worldspan will become the exclusive supplier of global distribution system technology and services for travelstore.com and its online travel planning and reservations site. In addition they travelstore.com will receive Worldspan’s transaction processing and technology services, along with a comprehensive package of customized e-commerce solutions and professional consulting services. This is a key strategy for Worldspan to enter into the European business-to-business corporate travel market. Travelstore.com offers online business travel planning and management services throughout Europe. Specializing on the unique needs of small to medium-sized enterprises. Through its Internet strategies, Worldspan is not planning to leave its dedicated travel agency network, but instead to use the Internet to enhance its offerings to agents. This allows agents to better serve the end customer.
Through Worldspan Go, they are able to offer travel agents direct access to their CRS with complete travel planning and booking capabilities, In addition to a browser-based access to a broad selection of Internet-based travel products that also has fax and e-mail capabilities. This is all accessed from a single desktop. The newly designed Worldspan Go! Home Page makes everything easy to find and to use, with graphical interfaces that quickly guide users to the solutions they need, whether system-based or Web-based. Worldspan Go! is the Company’s browser-based reservations and e-commerce platform that will provide many benefits through its range of integrated products and enhanced solutions. Their Internet strategy also offers Web-based solutions that are designed to help the travel agent build sales and market services more effectively. Worldspan has started a new Web site, mytripandmore.com, where travel agents can offer travelers instant Internet access to their travel itineraries as well as providing complete online information on car, cruise, hotel, airline, and tour reservations. Mytripandmore.com has the ability to be accessed through Internet-ready mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDA). Worldspan is using the growth of the Internet to leverage its travel agency business model. Its on-line strategy is to provide agents the resources and capabilities that allow them to work more effectively and efficiently. As other competitors are contemplating how to reach the end-customer, Worldspan is providing technologically advanced solutions to better serve their clients.
Sabre has been in the forefront of eBusiness for decades. The company uses latest tools and technologies to remain the leader in the travel industry. Sabre is already strongly positioned in the travel market by combining “brick and mortar” with online Web sites.
Recent Sabre’s endeavors in the eBusiness arena hitting the press are:
Sabre launched a comprehensive suite of Web hosting services in April, offering services with flexible tiered packaging and pricing, targeting high-volume, transaction oriented e-commerce sites. The services include secure data center facilities, high-bandwidth Internet connectivity, systems monitoring and professional services.
Sabre’s tiered Web hosting solution enables not only the company’s traditional travel and
transportation industry customers to quickly establish transactional-based Web sites, but
companies in a variety of other vertical markets as well. Sabre Web Hosting delivers a total solution – data center facilities, network infrastructure, systems monitoring and ISP connectivity. Sabre already hosts approximately 700 sites. The different levels of hosting services include:
Managed Shared Hosting – a managed environment with shared server architecture.
This provides cost efficiencies for customers willing to share Sabre system resources.
Managed Dedicated Hosting – a managed environment with a dedicated server complex,
gives customer flexibility, including non-Sabre applications, and maximum service and support.
Co-location Hosting – customer-provided hardware and applications are housed in
Sabre’s hosting facility; provides customer with control, flexibility, lower costs and speed-to-market.
Web hosting provides Sabre the opportunity to increase revenue streams through its traditional travel and transportation segment and to expand into other transaction-oriented businesses, such as financial and brokerage firms. The entire Web hosting market is expected to generate $14 billion in revenue in the United States by 2003.
Sabre announced Sabre® eVoya in March. Sabre® eVoya travel agency technology offers an entire suite of travel agency tools including eServices, eCommerce, eCare and eManagement. Sabre eVoya technology is a new way to look at entire travel agency product suite offered by Sabre.
Travel agents can now access services and support via eServices Web site. eServices can help Sabre realize cost savings from streamlined operational processes as well as help position Sabre as a travel agency partner offering enhanced customer service and support. eServices offers the following features and functions:
Live Online Training and Chat: scheduled online user classroom training facilitated by an online instructor; cost savings from less travel to training class locations; convenience and flexibility of taking other select training courses online at any time
Equipment Ordering/Tracking: equipment orders for moves, adds, and deletes; ability to check status of order online; automatic online confirmation
Online Diagnostics: hardware troubleshooting instructions, diagnostics, and diagrams
Agency Dispatch: automatic dispatch of mice, keyboards, & monitors as well as LMR status views; online technician dispatch for select onsite needs
Booking Reports: ability to access current and historical reports as well as graph booking trends
QuestDirect is targeted to airlines or other travel related suppliers seeking to develop an
e-commerce site to enable alternate distribution channels. QuestDirect is a complete architecture, methodology and technology solution that enables high-availability, high-traffic, large-scale direct sale transactions via the Internet and other e-commerce distribution channels. More importantly, QuestDirect is completely customizable to meet customers’ specific needs. Swissair is a current QuestDirect client.
E-Commerce Reservation Tool (ECRT) is an online booking tool targeted to Sabre-hosted airline customers and smaller non-hosted airline customers. ECRT is engineered to support high-volume Internet sites receiving thousands of hits per day, with the performance and reliability to service customers quickly and efficiently. Sabre provides an all inclusive application development, connectivity to the reservations host and ongoing hosting services. This tool is an attractive and cost effective option for multi-host airlines to expand in the arena of online booking. Current ECRT clients include American Trans Air, Legend Airlines and Midwest Express.
QuestDirect and ECRT benefit clients in numerous way by enhancing profits, and reducing distribution costs and call center expenses due to direct sale transactions over the Internet. Internet, e-commerce distribution channel affords the opportunity of increasing market presence and revenues.
Sabre and Ariba, Inc. announced an agreement to create Sabre e-Marketplace, the first
Internet-enabled B2B marketplace designed for the travel and transportation industry.
Powered by the global Ariba B2B eCommerce platform, Sabre e-Marketplace is expected to drive cost savings and new revenues for industry participants through global economies of scale and streamlined buying and selling. Sabre e-Marketplace will maximize the purchasing power of companies with similar procurement needs, such as airlines, airports, travel agencies, railroads, cruise lines, car rental companies and hotel properties.
Sabre announced a new Sabre Business Travel Solutions I2 Interactive Information
product, a Web-based management reporting and data analysis tool. I2 was created in response to customers’ request for a comprehensive, Web browser-based product to access corporate travel data and easily distribute reports via a Web page, email or as a converted spreadsheet.
Sabre has joined forces with flightserv.com to enable Sabre Connected business travelers to purchase individual seats on chartered private jets as an affordable alternative to fully refundable commercial airline travel. The partnership will provide access to flightserv.com’s proprietary Private Seats & trade; product through Sabre BTS.
FusionOne and Sabre have formed a partnership to integrate fusionOne’s free Internet
synchronization service with Sabre’s travel Web sites. Synchronized access will be made available to more than 350 corporations using Sabre BTS as well as Sabre Connected travel agencies through the Sabre Virtually There Web site.
Sabre, SCA Telecard Promotions and West TeleServices Corporation launched a
teleservice promotional program offering free long distance service to travelers through the Sabre Virtually There Web site. Once a trip is booked, travelers can access their trip itineraries through the Web site and receive free long distance in increments of 10, 20 or 30 minutes. Sabre formed a strategic alliance with OracleMobile.com, a new subsidiary of Oracle Corp., to provide wireless users of Sabre BTS, Travelocity.com and Sabre
Connected travel agencies the ability to book travel via Web-enabled handheld devices.
In Aug Sabre announced the acquisition of Gradient Solutions Limited, a Dublin, Ireland-based technology company that provides e-commerce solutions to the global travel marketplace. Gradient Solutions enhances Sabre’s existing leading-edge Web development expertise and technology, as well as online distribution solutions, by bringing an international and highly customizable online booking engine. Hosting capabilities have also been extended, with the new group having two advanced data centers, one located in Europe with the other in the U.S. Gradient’s technologies provide tools for multi-language and multi-currency needs and offer the ability to connect to multiple global distribution systems.
In the B2B area Sabre completed the acquisition of GetThere. GetThere operates one of the world’s largest Internet marketplaces focused on business-to-business travel services. GetThere’s systems are used to provide online travel procurement to employees at leading corporations such as Boeing, Chevron, Cisco, Cox Enterprises, Lucent, MetLife, Nike and Xerox. GetThere also powers online travel sites for leading airlines, including Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, America West, British Airways, Northwest Airlines, TWA and United Airlines.
The vision of Sabre is to be the world leader in information technology for the travel and transportation industries. Sabre plans to continue being the standard bearer of customer reservation system technology. Sabre’s recruitment brochure states that Sabre are “progressive technological thinkers, innovators of information technology for systems solutions and that Sabre is a leader in developing superior products and services that meet customer needs”. Sabre is a technology company whose primary businesses are electronic travel distribution and information technology solutions. Being a technology company, Sabre must utilize the technology available to improve their processes and increase their market share.
Managerial vision is an important aspect of continuing success. Responding to the mew market developments, such as the expansion of the Internet and e-commerce, are also critical to continuing success. The CEO of Sabre, Bill Hannigan, stated in a Merrill Lynch Conference, the overall strategies of Sabre: satisfy customers and seize opportunities with speed and agility, grow the business, invest and innovate in new and existing products and technologies to win, leverage resources and synergies for greater profitability. These strategies can influence the future goal of Mr. Hannigan’s Sabre and that is to create new best of breed products and expand presence in all transportation alliances. Travel is the largest category of e-commerce (Boydston R36). Forrester research claims a $30 billion market by 2003 for online travel industries, which is a 25% increase from 2000. Forrester also states that the total of worldwide growth by 2004 for North America is $ 6.8 trillion for business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries. The possibilities and profitability is enormous. “Few innovations in human history encompass as many potential benefits as electronic commerce does. The global nature of the technology, low cost, opportunity to reach hundreds of millions of people, interactive nature, variety of possibilities and resourcefulness, and rapid growth of the supporting infrastructures results in many potential benefits to the organization, individuals, and society (Turban 16). Sabre currently holds a competitive lead in its industry and in the new online market share. Currently Sabre holds 38% of the global share of travel agency business. Its competitor Galileo holds the second position at 28%. Sabre currently holds 60% of the online market share in its industry. Worldspan, another competitor comes in second at 29%. Sabre holds the complementary assets that will make its e-commerce ventures successful. In an executive presentation of New Frontiers in Travel Distribution, Mr. Hannigan stated “the new vertical e-marketplaces may be all the rage on Wall Street today but we’ve been doing e-commerce for 40 years in the travel business” Sabre has built up its company resources and competencies that it can compete with the new companies entering the industry and with current competitors trying to change their structure to compete online. In a personal interview with Mr. Hannigan he explained that e-commerce would not change the way business is conducted. E-commerce will not make or break a current or new company (unless of course it is a pure-play e-commerce business). What is important is the viability of the business model that the company has. E-commerce is a tool, which if used correctly can transform the industry. Bill Hannigan stated “I see opportunity in the form of a chance to revolutionize the way we do business, through the use of new technologies, business models and methods of travel marketing”(new frontiers). Sabre’s goal is to use the new technologies to help improve their business process and not overhaul the Sabre business model. The goal is to “drive all of that technology forward, to be the change agent that helps keep the travel industry on the leading edge of the e-commerce revolution (Hannigan Ariba). Sabre wants to continue to be the standard-bearer in the travel distribution industry and the Internet and e-commerce can facilitate that vision. Sabre’s strategy, in e-commerce, is not limited to offering customers access to flight information. It is with partnering with companies to help distribute Sabre technology across business areas. The customer base for Sabre is not just travel agencies, but also airlines, airports, hotels, car rental companies, and tour operators. E-commerce also has facilitated the growth of the business-to-business reservation opportunities. Online corporate travel is seen as a critical new market and Sabre wants leadership in the business-to-business market. Sabre’s top management sees the potential impact of the Internet and e-commerce in increasing revenue dramatically in the corporate travel. In a personal interview with Bill Hannigan he discussed in the importance of recognizing all potential transportation customers, who direct Sabre’s attention to the railway industry as a market to further, develop.
The Internet and e-commerce are facilitators of the business process. It can help improve the way a business competes but it will not change the business commerce model. E-commerce and technology can help with the cost of business by reducing distribution costs, improving supplier behavior, and individualizing marketing effects. In a New Frontiers in Travel Distribution presentation, Bill Hannigan stated that the e-commerce strategy at Sabre is to use the new technology and the experience of Sabre in travel distribution “to make sure that the travel industry advances just as far, as fast, and as profitable as it can possibly can”. Sabre will continue using the technology available to further dominate the industry and its competitors. Sabre has had an aggressive history with its capabilities. In a 1997 Forbes article, the author stated “Sabre is embracing the web wholeheartedly for direct sales to travelers, while Galileo is limiting its involvement to suppliers to Internet travel sites” (Palmeri). This statement is further validated by Sabre’s 60% market dominance on the online industry while Galileo holds only %. Sabre has taken advantage of Galileo’s slow pace and established itself as leader with Travelocity in the business-to-consumer market and with Business Travel Solutions, GetThere.com, and Virtually There.com in the business-to-business market. Galileo has since increased its web presence. At a conference the CEO of Galileo, James Barlett stated “to take advantage of its market maker position, Galileo has been aggressively updating its network”. The company has recently acquired Trip.com to compete in the business-to-business market. It has set up point and click access to cruises. Galileo is aggressively trying to penetrate the Internet market but it has not been aggressive enough to rank second in the online market. Worldspan ranks second with 29% of the online market. The e-commerce and Internet marketplace is a key component of Worldspan’s tactic. The senior vice-president, Sue Powers stated “Worldspan has leverage the concept of e-commerce as the basis for strategies that have propelled the company to the business forefront. Worldspan claims 50%of all online travel bookings. To further press its aggressiveness, Worldspan has combined forces with ByeByeNow.com to penetrate the business-to-business market. Worldspan has also partnered with Expedia on a new pricing engine for Internet travel reservation. Worldspan can become a serious competitor by partnering with technology rich companies and transportation industries.
It cannot be denied that the Internet and e-commerce has changed the travel distribution industry. It has created more information hungry consumers and faster responding companies. The first step in incorporating the new trend and technology is the managerial vision of Sabre’s executive. The vision will drive the company and its employees. Sabre needs to insure that they take advantage of all its capabilities and aggressively use the technology to insure dominance and deter new competitors.
So what is on the horizon for Sabre? As one would assume, Sabre is always at the mercy of an ever-changing technological environment. With competitors at its heals on a daily basis, Sabre must keep its sights fixed on the future in order to excel in the present. So whether the company’s strategy involves new products, business alliances or strategic acquisitions, one thing is for sure – Sabre will not survive sitting still.
The company has already taken great strides to distance itself even further from its competitors. In July of 2000, the company launched a reservations system for mobile phones and devices using Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). According to Scott W. Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Sabre BTS, this technology allows customers to create, access and change flight, car and hotel reservations using WAP-enabled mobile phones offered by Nokia, Sprint PCS or AT&T Wireless, or WAP-enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs). Sabre is also introducing wireless viewing capability to its Sabre VirtuallyThere web site customers, giving travelers mobile access to travel itineraries, flight details, gate information and weather forecasts using the wireless device of their choice.
Another recent development in the online travel industry that will serve as a crucial survival technique for years to come is business alliances. Sabre’s most recent agreement involved ILOG, the world’s leading supplier of software components. Through this relationship, Sabre gained access to embeddable optimization, visualization and business rule components that dramatically shorten the development time of enterprise applications in the supply chain, telecommunications, transportation and financial services industries (ILOG). This partnership gives Sabre a very valuable stake in the future of technology in the online travel industry. It allows for the integration of ILOG’s product suites of optimization, graphical user interface and business rule engine software into existing and future Sabre airline and online products. Alliances such as this will not only become more common, but they will become a requirement for companies such as Sabre looking to compete in a highly saturated industry.
Regulation will also be a major component to Sabre’s long term goals. In the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) devised rules for computer reservations systems after receiving complaints about biased displays from travel agencies and airlines. Today, DOT is debating whether to have an even stronger regulatory stance. Stronger regulation may interfere with the fast-paced, rapid-growth environment of the online travel industry, but Jim Marsicano, Travelocity’s executive vice president of sales and services, doesn’t see it that way. He says, “It wouldn’t bother us at all to have the same rules applied to the Internet.” But history has shown us that anytime the government expands their presence, industry changes will be imminent.
Also, U.S. computer reservations systems have faced persistent trade barriers in their efforts to establish a market presence in certain countries. Several foreign air carriers and transportation providers, and the CRS’s they own or market, have deliberately withheld fare and schedule information and other enhancements from U.S. CRS’s. At the same time, the foreign CRS receives full functionality. Such discrimination is illegal. The foreign airlines and foreign CRS’s that discriminate against us have unrestricted access to the U.S. market and receive the full protection of the U.S. Department of Transportation rules ensuring fair treatment of all airlines and CRS’s. This double standard has proven to impede the expansion of Sabre’s presence in foreign markets. If this problem persists, Sabre will be at a huge disadvantage to its competitors overseas.
Another possible consideration for Sabre in the long run is labor force issues. A shortage of qualified employees is already infiltrating the IT industry. Sabre’s web site had this to say about the problem:
Sabre’s business success depends on the ability to hire highly skilled technology workers such as computer scientists, mathematicians and industrial engineers who provide the technical expertise to serve Sabre customers. The supply of this labor in the U.S. has not kept pace with the demand. Sabre is working with the government to reach both long term and short term solutions to this critical workforce problem.
As one can see, there is room for concern regarding this issue. Sabre still relies on skilled employees to power the company, no matter how technologically enhanced it becomes. With new competitors rapidly entering the industry, the ability to hire qualified workers may just be the deciding factor in Sabre’s success.
The rise of e-business is putting pressure on vendors to accelerate the evolution of predictive analysis tools. Nowhere is this pressure felt more than at Sabre. So in order to work through the complex task of modeling the future, Sabre has implemented BMC’s Patrol predictive analysis and capacity planning software. According to Mike Nelson, senior vice president and general manager for global infrastructure at Sabre Holdings, tools that do a better job of predicting how potential spikes in traffic will impact IT performance will be vital. Sabre handles more than 1 billion hits monthly on 700-plus Web sites it hosts as an ASP and its Travelocity reservation system. So if the company can adequately predict and prepare for that enormous wave of traffic, it will keep business processes flowing as efficiently as possible.
As one can see, the future presents numerous obstacles and issues for Sabre. The company will most likely continue expansion as an application service provider and develop strategic partnerships and alliances in order to circumvent overseas resista