Sabre drops wholesaling business
January 16, 2009: Sabre has decided to end its two-year experiment as a wholesaler, and it notified agents that it will retire dynamic-package brands TripTailor Vacations and Agent59 on Feb. 5.
Barbara Helzlsouer, Sabre´s vice president of sales for leisure packaging, said the move came as part of a company-wide review of its leisure and corporate portfolios.
"It was basically an economic decision," Helzlsouer said, reinforced by the fact that other products, including Sabre Vacations, a private-label version of VAX VacationAccess, could fill some of the void.
Sabre´s core business has been as a distributor and technology-solutions provider, but in late 2006 it debuted TripTailor and entered the wholesale business, competing with partners such as Adventure Tours, ATA Vacations, Funjet Vacations, Sandals and Beaches Resorts, Southwest Airlines Vacations, TransGlobal Vacations, Travel Impressions, United Vacations and US Airways Vacations, all of which are among the operators participating in Sabre Vacations.
With Sabre obtaining the wholesale inventory on its own for TripTailor, agents could bundle air, car, hotel, tour, event and dining components into vacation packages. Agents did not have to be Sabre GDS users to use TripTailor.
Sabre paid agents commissions on the bookings. Agents also could add their own markups on top of the commissions. Agent59 worked in a similar manner but applied to last-minute packages only.
Helzlsouer said TripTailor Vacations had its own profit-and-loss statement within Sabre´s leisure business and that about half of the 20 to 25 employees that supported the dynamic-packaging business transitioned to other roles at Sabre, with the rest of the positions eliminated.
"We are returning to our roots," said Toby Kubis, Sabre´s director of leisure marketing, adding that Sabre would "distribute other people´s content instead of our own."
Helzlsouer said that in addition to the poor economy, there were two other challenges for Sabre´s wholesale business: agents´ tour operator relationships were "ingrained" and TripTailor users from other GDSs were "not our fastest adopters."
TripTailor Vacations and Agent59 will continue to support all travel and pay commissions for bookings made through Feb. 5, but the sites will become inoperable the next day, officials said. Some of the travel already booked will take place in October "or even later," Helzlsouer said.
Kubis said Sabre would continue to invest in other products to support agents, including Sabre Vacations, ClientBase LiveConnect and Sabre Cruises.
In a statement, Sabre said it was managing its overall business "conservatively" given market conditions, and had "made some reductions in our workforce."
The company declined to provide numbers on the downsizing, but added: "We have a sound strategy in place for 2009 and beyond and will continue to invest in the long-term health and success of our business, even as we have to make shorter-term decisions to manage our costs."