Agencies take on bigger role in travel tech value chain

Flight Centre Travel Group's Nooning: helping drive the narrative forward in a way that represents the interests of all parts of the travel value chain

With airline distribution in the travel industry set to undergo major technological change, some agencies say they are becoming more involved in helping shape the development of NDC solutions.

Sabre has enlisted Flight Centre and Carlson Wagonlit Travel as two of four industry partners in its Beyond NDC programme. These partners will participate in the NDC solution design process and leverage beta-testing capabilities.

Flight Centre Travel Group’s Nooning: helping drive the narrative forward in a way that represents the interests of all parts of the travel value chain

More partners in Asia-Pacific and beyond will soon be announced, revealed Kathy Morgan, vice president, NDC, Sabre, on the sidelines of the Sabre Technology Exchange yesterday.

Jason Nooning, global NDC coordinator, Flight Centre Travel Group, told TTG Asia: “It’s really great to be helping to drive the narrative from the perspective that’s in the best interest of all the constituents in the value chain. We’re ensuring that if there are any gaps in the functionality, we’ve got a broader voice with the largest TMCs in the world.”

Flight Centre has since rolled out a number of new products in collaboration with Sabre that provide new features such as trip appraisals and new retailing capabilities.

Sean Menke, president & CEO of Sabre, described: “We have really engaged – especially talking about NDC – both the travel agencies and the suppliers side of the equation. If we do not have that, then we’re not going to get prioritisation of problems we have to solve.

“You have to have that level of insight with your customer. I think there’s more work and collaboration that needs to be done, not only for the technology providers but also hoteliers and airlines.”

To push this further, Sabre has integrated its airline and agency teams into a single “Travel Solutions” umbrella in order to streamline its internal processes and the product awareness for partners in both circles.

“We didn’t have people within our hospitality organisation or airline solutions talking to people in the travel network organisation. (Now) we have to bring it to the forefront to our partners to understand the breadth and depth of the technologies we have,” explained Menke.

Head of operations for Australia-based Phil Hoffmann Travel, Genevieve Thompson, opined that there is definitely room for more innovation, especially in online booking tools, as “it’s very important” for agents to be involved in the technology value chain.

She explained: “Agents are the ones dealing with travellers day in, day out, so their thoughts and ideas are really important for GDSs like Sabre to be in touch with industry trends.”

For Brunei-based Century Travel Centre, the degree of engagement between technology providers and travel agents leaves much to be desired, as there is hardly any awareness of other options in the market, said general manager Foo CP.

“Attending more events like these would be good to help us see what solutions there are,” he said.

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