Sabre prods travel agents toward online bookings

The travel industry shift from walk-in and telephone bookings towards online bookings is happening faster than was expected, according to Sabre vice-president of Asia Pacific, Mike Baldwin.

The travel industry shift from walk-in and telephone bookings towards online bookings is happening faster than was expected, according to Sabre vice-president of Asia Pacific, Mike Baldwin.

Dallas-based reservation and travel software company Sabre bought Sabre Pacific last April and is trying to get travel agencies in this region to buy its online booking engine and travel portal software. Baldwin says while most agents have brochure-style websites, many are now looking to taking the customer through the complete sales process online.

Travel Agents Association of New Zealand chief executive Peter Lowery says the industry is undergoing massive change, with online moves just part of that.

“Online travel is just an extension of the telephone, fax and telex. The travel agent of tomorrow will be able to take bookings online and have various search engines. The benefits of going through a travel agent are choice, independence and knowledge. If you go and book travel direct through websites you take the responsibility yourself.”

Sabre claims to have just under 300 of New Zealand’s 700 travel agencies using its reservation system or other travel tools.

Advanta.Res is an entry-level product and Meridia.Res a high-end product which give travel agents flexible ways to configure their online services portal. Meridia.Res has multi-language and multi-currency options and customers can search and select from the sites of airlines, rental car companies and hotels for the best deals.

Sabre can host the website or work with an agent’s ISP and developers. One New Zealand agency, BTI, is using the software.

Most agencies have websites but taking bookings online isn't common.

Ravi Stuart of Otahuhu-based Stuarts Travel Services says his company doesn’t yet have a website but is planning to be online by the end of the year. He believes the cost of the Sabre tools, at $200 a month for Meridia.Res and half that for Advanta.Res, is reasonable.

The products compete with offerings from Gallileo and Amadeus.

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