Travel, smartphones, and the future | TravelResearchOnline

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Travel, smartphones, and the future

Last week, I was reading an article in Travel Weekly about the mobile world. Not the automobile, but the mobile that likely spends a lot of time in our collective pockets, purses, or strapped to our hip in some sort of holster. The gist of the article was that the travel industry was far behind other industries in developing apps (applications) for the growing smartphone market.  I tend to agree. I am a relatively new adopter of the smartphone craze, and now I cannot see how anyone can turn back on the technology.

The apps that are available are nothing short of incredible—especially for travel. In a new city and need to get subway directions? As the commercial says, there’s an app for that. A dining recommendation? Zagat at your fingertips. Checking into your hotel? Yup, not a problem.  Virtually anything need you might have on a trip, likely has an app. Lonely businessman at a Vegas convention—yes, there is an app for that! So it comes as no surprise that Sabre is one of the leading travel companies in application development.

Once you cut through all of the marketing mumbo jumbo, Sabre is nothing more than a data mining company. They take the data from airlines and share it with travel agencies. They also take the data from travel agencies and share it with the airlines—can you say “debit memo?” Back in the late 90s, they introduced their web product called Virtually There which was an incredible tool for the corporate traveler. The itinerary could be sent to their Blackberry, Palm Pilot (anyone remember those), or to an email address.  As the program developed, it began to include all sorts of information about the local destination—weather, local attractions, etc.  And it worried many travel professionals that Sabre might be poaching their clients. And they didn’t.

But now, that question has come to the forefront once again. Sabre has developed Virtually There Mobile which is the app for Virtually There. This app allows smartphone users who have Sabre itineraries to view details, make changes, and check in for flights. But, according to Travel Weekly, Sabre intends to enable commercial transactions within that product by year’s end ostensibly for purchases of “ancillary” items. While “ancillary” is not really defined, one can probably expect those items to include anything that was not included in the initial itinerary. Quite possibly if Sabre does not see a car, hotel, or insurance—they may offer it to your client.  But, the question remains, since Sabre already has your customer’s information, will they take the next (some say logical) step and offer a complete suite of travel products to your customer? Or will they keep the booking aspects strictly for agents? Just some food for thought!

  3 thoughts on “Travel, smartphones, and the future

  1. Susan says:

    Thanks for the “food for thought” John – as always, great information! By the way, I have several Palm Pilots – want one? 😉

  2. Pam says:

    Thanks for noting some of the features we’re working on John! As a Sabre employee, want to assure you and your readers that our mobile service has and will continue to be an agent-only offering. Everything we deliver via VirtuallyThere including new shopping and ancillary services are for agents to provide to travelers. Mobile is a massive and growing need among travelers, and agents that deliver these services help build customer loyalty and satisfy what their cusotmers are asking for.

  3. John Frenaye says:

    Pam–

    Thanks for the input and your commitment to the travel agency community. The speed of technology is amazing and we as agents must keep on top of things.

    I recall a time when no one could imagine an airline cutting or eliminating commissions, much less selling directly to clients we had nurtured over the years. Now, unfortunately, our clients are being poached left and right.

    Of course no one owns a client, but the practice is rampant!

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