The travel industry suffered a huge setback due to the pandemic-induced lockdown in the last two years. But things started to look up with the resumption of international travel and 2022 might just compensate for all the travel loss the industry had to face. As per research by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the Indian economy could go beyond the pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with a year-on-year growth of 20.7%. But much of it will be driven by technology.
The Global Industry Analysts Inc (GIA) report 2022, suggests that the global travel technologies market will reach $12.5 billion by 2026. Many travel companies took the impasse during the pandemic as a time to rejig their digitization processes. Amit Madhan, President & Global Head, IT & eBusiness, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd and SOTC told TOI that they used the pandemic to transform into a 100% digital company.
Such vast possibilities for digitisation in the sector will also give rise to innovations. Sabre Corporation has found a unique way to do the same. Their many employee engagement activities have helped them with several client concerns. Activities like BlitzCode (A 3-day hackathon at Sabre’s Global Capability Center, Bengaluru conducted every year to solve key business challenges facing the travel industry), Big Pitch (A platform where employees present business concepts to the leadership) and others have been introduced to encourage employees to invent programs or solutions to solve critical problems.
Highlighting one instance where an employee’s idea was converted into a product, Rency Mathew, People Leader, South Asia, Global Capability Centre, Sabre Corporation recalls, “Very often, Travel Arrangers (TA) in the corporate world struggle to compete with offline channels. They often face the need for a more user-friendly Travel Arranger (TA) portal that has additional features and is more intuitive. To give our customers the best-in-class experience, Team Himalaya – a participant team in Blitzcode came up with TAD 2.0 (Travel Arranger Desktop).”
After brainstorming, Team Himalaya came up with many ideas to improve the Traveler Lookup and Trip Lookup functionalities. This included simplifying the User Interface (UI) for a better and more intuitive experience, reducing the number of clicks for booking, and introducing additional data analytics hooks to capture information that could help make future improvements with a data-driven approach.
Most of the ideas presented at this hackathon are in various stages of readiness. As per the 2021 Blitzcode data, 50% of ideas were up and running for customers within six months and the other 50% were work in progress.
Something similar happened with Big Pitch as well. It is an open-to-all ideation platform that allows Sabre employees to brainstorm and explore upcoming trends in the travel technology space. “In the last few editions of Big Pitch, the winning teams presented ideas around personalized offers and how Sabre can create a better experience for travellers by leveraging marketplace insights. Sabre is already focusing on building the next generation of Retail Intelligence suite and Sabre BLR team members are now applying their learnings from big pitch to modernize travel retailing,” adds Mathew.
In terms of gratification, winners are rewarded with cash prizes for the team. Each year, the cash prize is decided based on the budgets allocated for innovation and technology initiatives.
“In the last few editions of Big Pitch, the winning teams presented ideas around personalized offers and how Sabre can create a better experience for travellers by leveraging marketplace insights. Sabre is already focusing on building the next generation of Retail Intelligence suite and Sabre BLR team members are now applying their learnings from big pitch to modernize travel retailing.”
However, talent challenges are still quite intense. Mathew reveals that retention is tough due to higher compensation challenges. “Post Covid, many startups have received fresh rounds of funding. This has led to them offering almost 70 – 100% hikes in salary. This poses a retention challenge for us. Also, as India is a key market for product tech giants and most of them are bullish in the talent market currently, matching compensation for each team member looking to move is not sustainable,” explains Mathew.
Apart from that, Mathew also highlighted that the offer drops are higher than before the pandemic because of reasons given around overall compensation and benefits, and sometimes because of personal reasons around family members’ health.
“Post Covid, many startups have received fresh rounds of funding. This has led to them offering almost 70 – 100% hikes in salary. This poses a retention challenge for us. Also, as India is a key market for product tech giants and most of them are bullish in the talent market currently, matching compensation for each team member looking to move is not sustainable.”
Moonlighting, the act of taking up secondary employment, is also a reason for slight concern for Sabre. Rency believes moonlighting may become a common norm in the coming years, with corporates requesting the government to frame guidelines around dual employment and different employment contracts. This will pose some challenges for Sabre as well. “The challenges are not only for a specific industry but for the job market. We will need to factor in GDPR, productivity issues, data privacy, ethical challenges, etc, especially if one is working for a competitive brand as well,” Mathew points out.
Rency Mathew does however have a solution for this. “This issue can be nipped in the bud if the industry leaders and government both work together to find a solution to this potential problem that may become more common in the future,” she signs off.
Sabre would be targeting 10% growth y-o-y for roles primarily catering to tech transformation around Development, Data Science, AI, and ML.
Author: Rency is a senior HR leader with expertise in HR operations, acquisitions, mergers, divestiture, etc. She has a passion for coaching managers, and leaders and influencing the organization through effective partnerships.
Year of Incorporation: 2005
Number of employees:1200-1500
Business line: Travel Technology
Key differentiating factor: Our Collaboration with Google On Tech Transformation