Striving to be the platform at the centre of business of travel

Sabre’s CEO Sean Menke strives to transform the organisation and its culture

Sean Menke, the CEO of Sabre, was due to be the special guest for a “CEO Interview” at CityCube Berlin during ITB. We asked Sean how he saw the future of the industry in general, and the role of consumer expectations. 

We are operating in a highly digitalised world with rapidly evolving consumer expectations. Over the past years, many sectors such as music, video or retail have been reshaped by technology. Influenced by consumer experiences in their everyday lives, today’s travellers are demanding easy-to-use services and products, instant gratification and a high degree of personalisation.

machine learning and artificial intelligence will reshape the way we sell, deliver and experience travel

This creates opportunities for travel providers to innovate, especially when it comes to delivering a state-of-the-art consumer-grade experiences, and there are certainly some obstacles, such as the high degree of fragmentation and our industry’s built-in complexity. However, in my discussions with leading industry players, I’m seeing an increasing willingness to have candid conversations, break down silos, and reimagine the business of travel to the benefit of all stakeholders, including and above all the travellers.

How will technology further enhance the travel experience in this coming decade? 
In the next decade, we believe that machine learning and artificial intelligence will reshape the way we sell, deliver and experience travel. A world of just-what-I-want, just-when-I-want-it, just-how-I-want-it is right around the corner for the travel industry. Our customers succeed when the traveller’s demands are met, so our product development starts with the traveller’s needs and we invest significantly in understanding their expectations, and delivering technology that enables airlines, agents, hotels and other stakeholders to meet and exceed those expectations.

What are Sabre’s “KPIs” and how are they progressing?
Our industry is changing, and Sabre wants to be a leader in this evolution. We strive to be the platform at the centre of the business of travel, and our KPIs are designed to measure how well we do on this journey. Since I became CEO in December 2016, I have dedicated my time to transforming the organisation and its culture. We’ve prioritised product health, undertaken the modernisation of the technology infrastructure that powers our platform, accelerated our transition to a modern, cloud-based open environment, and re-aligned the businesses so that customers would hear a single voice and a unified strategy. For each of these efforts, we have a set of detailed internal measurements of success and we are making good progress against each of them.

Sabre’s offering is becoming much more “personalised”. How does that work? 
The travel marketplace looks nothing like it did a half century ago when Sabre was founded, and it continues to evolve with better data-driven offers that are tailored for consumers. Until very recently, the focus has primarily been on flights and accommodation – not just for Sabre, but in the entire industry ecosystem. But there are many other opportunities. To be successful, you need technology platforms that bundle all kinds of travel content and make it available. I consider this to be our most important task: How do we make it possible to plan a complete trip with our systems – and not just with flights and hotels?

We want to lead that evolution. In the coming years, Sabre will lead a new market for personalised travel. That’s our ambition, our guiding star.

Photo: Sean Menke, CEO of Sabre