Sabre Wants to Convert, Not Just Capture, 'Open' Bookings

Concur has Open Booking. KDS has Maverick. Now, enter Sabre, which this week staked a claim in the emerging business of small-o, small-b open booking with TruTrip.

Slated for release in early 2014, the tool will combine components of Sabre's TripCase itinerary management application, GetThere corporate booking tool and Sabre Red agency desktop to facilitate non-GDS bookings and "easily capture travel activity across booking sources," according to the company.

Like other open-booking approaches, capturing booking data is part of the equation, and indeed the raison d'être for itinerary management tools like TripCase. Though data capture is "powerful, but frankly the easy stuff," Sabre Travel Network vice president of information technology and consulting Kyle Moore suggested that reclaiming those transactions in the managed environment is the other, perhaps more challenging, piece of Sabre's open-booking plan.

Sabre didn't share too many details on how it plans to convert maverick bookings into managed bookings, but Moore pointed to the so-called TruTrip Shop as the linchpin, the point "where we actually extend outside of the traditional Sabre marketplace," he said.

Moore likened that component of TruTrip to other Sabre tools like the agency web-search application NetCheck and GetThere Connect, which sources content residing outside of the GDS channel. "Putting the right policy management tools around that is where we'll be enhancing the set of capabilities" for TruTrip, said Moore.

He gave the scenario of a corporate traveler booking a conference rate "that may not be within the traditional Sabre marketplace," and building "an extension where we shop that, and ensure that it happens inside of policy."

The idea of "open booking" not only capturing rogue behavior but also correcting it is not necessarily unique to Sabre. KDS Maverick tries to head off at the pass out-of-channel bookings by policing Web searches and encouraging travelers to return to corporate pastures. Short's Travel's BookIt allows travelers to search on consumer sites, capture a chosen itinerary and send it to the travel management company for booking.

But what if the transaction already is complete?

Yapta, whose technology tracks airfares and alerts corporate clients to money-saving rebooking opportunities, has built a prototype that could steer hotel bookings purchased on the web into the managed environment after the initial transaction.

Part-owned by Concur, Yapta during a recent Concur client forum demonstrated "the capability to capture open-booked hotel itineraries" and "pull those into our system to price-track while also highlighting preferred properties so that the corporation has the potential opportunity to even draw back those travelers into a preferred property," said CEO James Filsinger. In other words, once hotel booking data is captured, travel buyers or TMCs could track the rate for a price drop or a better preferred rate and rebook.

"It's still early-stage, but we believe there's opportunity there, and we'll see how we can best address that for our customers," said Filsinger.

Time will shed more light on Sabre's own magic formula, as the company is "looking at the early part of next year" to go live with TruTrip, though client pricing has yet to be determined, according to Moore.

He noted that Sabre is "architecting this so it will be open," though TruTrip initially would be optimized for clients working in the Sabre ecosystem.

Once hesitant, Sabre is convinced the market is ready for the concept. While wait-and-see attitudes among some buyers and others who exhibit "a level of anxiety" remain, Moore said, there is a contingent of the marketplace ready to embrace Sabre's flavor of open booking. "There are enough anecdotes that it's beginning to feel fairly quantified," he said.

It might seem odd that a company so tied to travel transaction processing is willing to potentially become an enabler of GDS disintermediation, but Sabre doesn't position it that way.

"I fundamentally don't look at it as driving disintermediation," Moore said. "I view it as, how do we help get the genie back in the bottle? We're giving tools to better understand what is already happening outside the managed travel program, and then in addition to that, pushing that content to actually be extended, to be in the managed travel program."