Interview – Sabre’s Andreas Syrigos Highlights Significance of Personalized Travel, Cloud Technologies
After two challenging years for the travel and tourism industry, Sabre sees the beginning of a new chapter in travel technology – a new chapter that will revolutionize the meaning of personalization, says Andreas Syrigos, the company’s regional director based in Greece.
A leading software and technology provider that powers the global travel industry, Sabre is ready to offer its travel partners not only the tools, but also cloud-based platforms, which will enhance the overall travel experience.
“It is essential to make travel as easy as possible for customers, regardless of the circumstances,” Syrigos tells GTP Headlines in an interview in which he identifies new trends for travel in 2023.
With more than 20 years of technology industry experience and a track record for helping travel agencies succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace, Syrigos highlights the need to increase the adoption of cloud technologies.
“They are vital to the survival and growth of the travel industry,” he says, adding that cloud services allow travel companies to be flexible and quick to adapt “because they are scalable”.
Moreover, in this interview Syrigos gives us a sneak preview of Sabre’s plans to introduce new solutions to Greek travel agencies in the near future.
- GTP: Andreas, there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic presented the greatest challenge ever faced in the travel industry. A new customer experience in travel was created post-COVID. How did Sabre adapt during the last two years?
Andreas Syrigos: These last two years have been a difficult period and what has really changed is our relationship with the customer. So, first and foremost, in the case of travel agencies, we were flexible with our business partners, because the travel industry practically stopped. Next, we decided to invest heavily in technology, as we believe that adapting needs motion. To fulfill this new customer experience demanded by travellers, with the complexity of the workflows that it entails, with the amount of automation that’s required, with the amount of flexibility that both the corporate traveler and the leisure traveler and the combination of both need in travel, technology needs most definitely to be at the center. And we’re not just investing in it now, we’ve invested in it, even in 2022 to make personalized travel a reality.
- GTP: In a scenario where exception is the order of the day, can companies, by automating processes, maintain pre, on, and post-trip efficiency? How?
Andreas Syrigos: This scenario has been caused by the pandemic as it has increased the need for travel companies to be more agile and adapt quickly to new situations. Therefore, they are focusing more on products and processes that can meet customers’ new needs and renew their confidence in the travel experience. It is essential to make travel as easy as possible for customers, regardless of the circumstances. To efficiently manage the new world of travel and deal with its unpredictability, travel companies must act swiftly but take a long-term view to optimize their processes and systems. This is done by removing friction through intelligent use of data and automation, which would help improve the travel experience and optimize revenues for travel companies.
- GTP: Is real time technology the crux of travel? What is the state of the art?
Andreas Syrigos: It is crucial for travel agencies, airlines, and hospitality services in general to collect and use data on their customers’ entire trip in order to improve revenue and enhance the overall travel experience. However, obtaining the information can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. The ability to process real-time data must be processed to be of value, and the travel industry is taking different approaches on how to do this. At Sabre, we have partnered with Google to develop Sabre Travel AI, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology that continuously learns from consumer behavior, helping travel companies redefine their resale and customer strategies. We are combining the infrastructure, AI and machine learning capabilities of Google Cloud with Sabre’s deep travel industry knowledge to create solutions that we believe are smarter, faster and more cost-effective.
- GTP: Backoffice side, what has changed in this two-year period? What adjustments are needed and what is the current difficulty?
Andreas Syrigos: As the recovery process begins to kick in, it is critical that we increase the adoption of cloud technologies. They are vital to the survival and growth of the travel industry. Cloud services allow travel companies to be flexible and quick to adapt because they are scalable. Cloud computing services can also be used to analyze data to identify future travel trends and generate valuable information that can be used to offer better deals and discounts to customers. Cloud technology will continue to play a significant role in improving the customer experience and generating revenue for the travel industry in the future.
- GTP: What does it mean to offer better travel experiences today?
Andreas Syrigos: First and foremost, travelers are looking for support, security and convenience. Travelers will demand greater ease of use of the tools and services provided by travel agencies, as well as the ability to make reservations and payments securely online. They value the ability of agencies to customize and tailor travel plans to their specific needs and preferences, as well as last-minute cancellations without disrupting other carriers. Second, there is a new face of business travel, as the rise of remote work means the ability to work from a vacation location or travel destination. There is a blurred line between business and leisure travel, and this presents an opportunity for the industry to use technology to offer tailored experiences that take advantage of this trend. And last but not least, a rapid pace of change. Advances in information technology have led to the availability of mobile apps and online tools that make it easier to book and manage flights and track itinerary, and there has also been an increase in the provision of personalized travel services and “nonstop” travel options for business travelers. The current study takes into account the changes that travel agencies are making to embrace this new reality.
- GTP: Is there a perceived need for implementation in business digitization? Is there still a gap to be bridged in Greece?
Andreas Syrigos: Technology was one of the reasons why travel agencies and GDS systems were born. Travel agents experience how their customers have an ever-increasing need for simplicity, personalization, and agile solutions, every day. So, I do not believe that travel professionals do not perceive the need for further digitization and automation. On the contrary, they are helping to promote the need for advanced technologies in the industry. Sabre, on the other hand, is providing a number of solutions that can leverage real-time data to help travel agencies meet the new needs of their customers.
- GTP: How is the online presence of Greek travel agents today? Do you see them evolving along with technology?
Andreas Syrigos: Travel agents experience firsthand how their customers are in an ever-growing-need for simplicity, customization and agile solutions. They perceive the need for further digitalization and automation. At the same time, some travel agencies have been downsized due to financial difficulties caused by the pandemic and are shifting their focus to high-yield customers. Recruiting experienced staff quickly to capitalize on recovery opportunities is also a great challenge, that’s why travel agencies are increasing their focus on investing in new technology to improve their position in market and profitability. Moreover, the travel recovery is happening faster than expected and with passenger numbers increasing, travelers more confident about longer-term plans, and emerging destinations stepping in to replace geographies that remain hard to access. All these changes brought about by the pandemic have increased the need for travel companies to be more agile and adapt quickly to new situations. They are therefore focusing more on products and processes that can satisfy customers’ new needs and give them renewed confidence in the travel experience. It is essential to make travel as easy as possible for customers – regardless of the circumstances. To efficiently manage the new world of travel and to cope with its unpredictability, travel companies need to act fast, but take a long-term view to optimizing their processes and systems. And this means to evolve and update all businesses in pace with technology.
- GTP: What will be the pillars of the future in (business) travel? Can you name five macro-trends?
Andreas Syrigos: A recent study by Sabre polling more than 500 decision makers from airlines and travel agencies revealed some interesting trends. Respondents believe that :
(1) Knowing the needs of customers before they do will be a must. Doing so requires having the ability to access and process the data available for each customer in order to offer personalized service in a short period of time.
(2) Offering targeted and differentiated communications for each customer is expected by travelers. Sending the right offer, to the right person, at the right time, is an art that must be honed to meet the demands that all global travelers will soon demand.
(3) Offer efficient processes, as more than 70 percent of travel agents use their time on administrative tasks that do not generate profits. To solve this obstacle, it is important to have automated platforms to free up this underutilized time.
(4) Travelers will also demand error-free and seamless compliance. If processes are to be efficient, the results must undoubtedly be nimble and final, seamless. Passengers expect that the resolution of their problems will not be a reason to interfere with their plans.
(5) Travel Agencies should provide a seamless experience across all channels. Travel agencies and their ability to provide excellent customer service will depend primarily on their ability to process large amounts of information. Data that will enable them to provide the best offer to their customer.
- GTP: What challenge will you be engaged in the near future?
Andreas Syrigos: I believe we are at the beginning of a new chapter in travel technology that will revolutionize the meaning of personalization. At Sabre we are ready to offer our travel partners not only the tools, but also cloud-based platforms that will enhance the overall travel experience. I think the challenge will be to accelerate the adoption of these technologies so that our travel partners can provide ever better customer service and higher revenues and become leaders in their respective segments or markets.
- GTP: On closing this interview, I would like to ask you a question on Greek tourism, which made an impressive comeback in 2022 following the disruption that Covid created. Considering your experience in the Greek market, how do you see Greek tourism progressing in the immediate future? What are Sabre’s future plans for the Greek market?
Andreas Syrigos: All signs are positive for Greek tourism in 2023. Forecast and demand remains strong with high interest for most of Greek destinations. If the macro-economic environment remains stable, 2023 will be another great year for the Greek tourism sector. It now carries a strong brand with increased interest of investment. Sabre’s future plans include a revamped strategy around introducing new solutions for Greek travel agencies. Our recent acquisition of Conferma Pay reignited the interest around virtual payments. Mastercard is now onboard, and we will be actively promoting Sabre Virtual Payments solution this year. In addition, we are revamping our Content Services for Lodging portfolio and will share some exciting news around it very soon. This is another opportunity for us in the Greek market and specifically around our hotel business. Finally, we will keep investing in technology through our R&D effort along with Google to promote automation, efficiency and personalization. A series of agency products will introduce Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning powered by Google technologies to help our customers lead in this space. We are continuing to expand our NDC footprint with more airlines joining Sabre Marketplace this year and support our agency community with more content. There is a lot of optimism around 2023 overall and the Greek market specifically.