Todd Arthur, Vice President, Sabre Travel Network Asia Pacific, Omar Farook Malik, Sabre Travel Network (Bangladesh) Limited and others pose with Team Sabre Bangladesh
Todd Arthur, VP, Sabre Travel Network AP
Dhaka : The Bangladesh market is important for Sabre. It's a business, we had since 2003_ Abacus and now Sabre. We have been here for a long time. It is a market that continues to grow. Businesses are growing and we have been supporting the growth.
Todd Arthur, Vice President, Sabre Travel Network Asia Pacific said this while talking to The Bangladesh Monitor on the sidelines of a presentation for the leading members of the travel trade at The Westin Dhaka in the city on December 19.
Omar Farooq Malik, Sabre Travel Network (Bangladesh) Limited and Jeffry Tan, Market Manager, South Asia Sales and Market Development were also present on the occasion.
The Sabre Vice President said, Bangladesh has been one of the most important markets in the region, based in the growth prospects. It is among top ten countries, population wise, so we can see the future growth.
Todd said, you have a large population base, a young population and education rate that is rapidly increasing. These are all the ingredients you need for business growth. We know this growth is the driving the market.
So, when you keep this in mind, it is an opportunity_ airlines will bring more planes in. That means more capacity, which in turn means they will need more GDSs' services. They will partner with travel agencies not only in Dhaka but also in other secondary and tertiary cities. That we believe, will happen. That's the reason I'm here. I believe the ingredients for continued strong growth are here.
Bangladesh is a market that interests me. I have heard a lot about Bangladesh. I have been always trying to find a way to get here. This is my 113rd country to visit. I am very fond of travel and I travel a lot. In my professional life I am responsible for 30 countries in the Asia Pacific.
Todd said, now when I go back to Singapore and think about Bangladesh, I'll understand the market a little bit better.
Giving the example of China, Todd said in 2001, 10 million people from China made international trips, which shot up to 150 million in 2005. Similarly, I feel that for markets like Bangladesh, conditions are ripe for very strong growth.
Sabre holds the biggest market share in Bangladesh_ about 41 per cent. We grew in Bangladesh by 30 per cent in 2016 and is growing at 20 per cent this year compared to other GDSs.
He said, there had been no hiccup in Bangladesh during the transition from Abacus to Sabre as the latter was a shareholder in the former for over 20 years. Abacus used the Sabre technology and Sabre platform. So, when Abacus became Sabre, it was more of a name change.
What is remarkable is that we had a rich Asia Pacific cultural heritage under Abacus which we retained and also the deep understanding, how the business is done (in Asia Pacific).
Todd said, what we have been able to do in the past two and a half to three years is to bring in global technology. Investment in technology that Sabre is making is over one billion dollar a year. Add that to the deep relationship we had over the years, like here in Bangladesh market. So, understanding cultural heritage in Business and the Global Technology is the way forward.
To be tested here
One of the things we are most excited about is implementing in 2018 the new Sabre Red Workspace. It's a new version of Sabre Red Workspace, which will be very easy to learn and use, and would truly revolutionise the travel agency business. This will really be a game changer. It will bring in more efficiency, provide more ways to upsell in products.
Lots of benefits will come with the new workplace. It really empowers the travel consultants_ one search gives the travel consultants a full screen of information, which then becomes very valuable for the travel consultants to be really consultative.
The Sabre Vice President said, "I am happy to inform that Bangladesh will be one of the first markets where we'll do some testing in pilot form."
Relations with Biman
Todd said, Sabre in a joint venture with national carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines. We are very proud of the business, we are doing together. It has been a successful partnership over the years. They own 51 per cent and we own 49 per cent of the business. We are interested in the partnership (with national carriers) to grow the GDS business not only in Bangladesh but also in the Asia Pacific region.
Todd hoped the country will continue to invest in aviation and other infrastructure. If the country does not continue to invest in airports, new terminals, new runways, railways, at some stage the capacity will be restricted.
Pointing out that Singapore's newest terminal will open in 2030, he said, this shows they are thinking about the future. I am sure the authorities here are looking as to how many people the airports can handle as well as at other infrastructure projects.
About "abuse" of GDSs' bookings, Todd said, we are proud of the customer, base here in Bangladesh market and across Asia Pacific. Bad actors are there. There has been a lot of pressure from the GDS' side as well as from airlines, which finally stopped the practice.
Security is important. We are focussed on ensuring safety of the data and strong protocols are in place. We are working with our airlines and travel agency partners. We are strong when we are together.
Ties with major OTAs
In the whole online space, "search" is the most critical factor. The results either show low price or short time distance. And our technology proves that we are providing the best "shopping" results. We have the biggest per centage of business with all the major global online travel agencies (OTAs). We are doing business with most of the up and coming online travel agencies in the Asia Pacific region.
We have superior shopping results_ it does not matter whether you are using your smartphone or tablet. We are really proud of that.
He said, as to directing business through those channels with the airlines, we firmly believe Sabre need to bring value to both the travel agencies and the airlines. For too long, GDS business has been looking at as to how we can support the travel agencies and not considering the value we need to bring to our airline partners. We need to bring value to the whole chain_ from the airlines right down to the agencies. We need to help airlines sell the products the way they want them.
Todd said, he was encouraged that the agency owners, managing directors are interested in how that can bring more efficiency and how technology can help them in this regard.
He said, low cost markets do not remain low cost markets for ever. There are examples across the region. Salaries of travel consultants have gone up. The agencies which have anticipated that, who have invested in their people and technology have grown. These are the organisations which have been quite successful.
I have seen a lot of agencies across the Asia Pacific region who have become hybrid_ online and offline. These organisations have brick and mortar presence as well as presence across the web and online. The online business will continue to grow. To embrace, it will be wise to ignore it will be a mistake, he concluded.