Sabre expands retailing capabilities for hotels


“Retailing” is a word that’s been buzzing across the travel
industry for several years. Driven in large part by the success of Amazon and
other e-commerce retailers, revenue strategists at airlines and hotels have
been developing ways to modernize the way air travel and hotel stays are sold,
to both improve the experience for customers and boost the bottom line for

Since 2019, Sabre has been
developing technology
to help hotels sell ancillary services and experiences
within their booking platforms, to drive revenue beyond the room by monetizing
virtually anything they’d like to sell.

Sabre Hospitality president Scott Wilson presented
the company’s SynXis Retail Studio to the industry at The Phocuswright
Conference in November
. Now the company is expanding the capabilities even
further through its acquisition last week of Techsembly, which provides an
automated e-commerce solution hotels can use to sell on- and off-property experiences and other add-ons in a centralized platform. 

Financial terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed,
but the Techsembly team is being integrated into Sabre Hospitality.

PhocusWire spoke with Wilson to learn more about the
acquisition and the capabilities it adds to Sabre’s marketplace as well as his
outlook for the future of retailing. The conversation has been edited for
brevity and clarity.

Why did Sabre become interested in Techsembly?

Coming out of the pandemic, one of the things that we had
heard very loudly from hoteliers was this need and idea of being able to
monetize more parts of their ecosystem. … How do they figure out how to get the
most they can out of each guest that comes through the door? And it’s great for
the hotels if they can find more monetization opportunities but do it in a way
that actually gives better guest satisfaction.

So we announced last year the launch of Retail Studio – a
product that was going to help hoteliers take any attribute of their property
and turn it into something that they could bring online into the entire
customer journey, from research to booking to pre-arrival to on-stay and even
post-stay. We’re seeing a lot of impressive traction with that product. … But
the piece that was further out in our road map that we think is really
important is how do you find those third-party opportunities that you could
similarly bring into that shopping and planning experience? 

Explain more about what you mean by “third-party

I’m sure you’ve been to many full-service hotels or resorts
and those resorts often have relationships with local travel partners or
players, and it can be tours, it could be restaurants, it could be shows, it
could be any number of things. Think about going to New York City, and can I
shop for a show while I’m on the hotel booking process and go ahead and confirm
that as opposed to waiting till I get to the property and figuring it out then.
And that was always part of our road map.

What Techsembly does is exactly that.
They’ve figured out how to create this marketplace. … And the further we got
along in talking to them about their product, we realized that there’s
opportunity beyond a partnership to actually embed this and integrate this into
our Retail Studio platform. 

So now we are going to be the most comprehensive retailing
solution for our hotels, covering both first-party opportunities and third-party
or marketplace opportunities. We think that goes right to what hoteliers are
saying they want and are looking for, and it’s a key step towards helping
hoteliers solve the T-Rev – total revenue per available room – not just the RevPAR [revenue per available room].
Quite frankly, we’ve seen ADRs [average daily rates] today that are fantastic, but there’s always
going to be a limit to that, and at some point things cycle. So hoteliers want to
make sure they’re prepared to be able to take advantage of the rest of the
things that they want to be able to bring forward into that customer’s experience.

Can you give me a few more examples of how this could
potentially be put into an action, and is it suited to certain types of properties?

If I’m a small property, I don’t have any F&B [food and beverage], I don’t
have a lot of fancy experiences, but I’m in the community and there are a lot
of things nearby that people come to my hotel to go do. They might go on a
fishing expedition, they might go to a show next door. They might want to rent
a bicycle to take around the neighborhood. What if I could bring those
experiences, digitize them if you will, and now embed them into the shopping experience
so as you’re booking the hotel, you can see not only what’s available … you can
go ahead and reserve or pre-purchase those. So you don’t have to worry, is
there going to be availability? Is the bike going to be left for me to actually
use? Can I go ahead and plan my trip more fully?

And then, of course, you can ramp this up to a full-service
or luxury or city center hotel, and there are hundreds, if not
thousands, of opportunities to do that. … And then if it gets really
sophisticated, and you have lots of these things to offer, you don’t want to
just throw them all up on a web page and say, what do you want? Wouldn’t it be
cool if you could start to actually – with some artificial intelligence and
machine learning against it, which is part of our road map – put the best thing forward for Mitra versus
Scott versus someone else who might have different preferences or desires for
their stay.

So if I’m a hotelier, I’m choosing what to make available
in this kind of marketplace for my guests, is that right?

Yes, exactly. And some hotels do this already – it’s called
the concierge. They’ve made these local partnerships. But guests have to wait
till they get to the property. So the idea is to pull all that forward. So now
guests can plan, and the hotelier and that third-party can inventory manage

And that helps hoteliers address some of the staffing
issues that we’re still continually hearing about, right?

That’s exactly right. So if, for example, I’m a full-service
hotel or a resort hotel. I’ve got golf, I’ve got spa, I’ve got F&B, and I
need to understand what my demand is going to be. Not today but a week before
or a month before, and I can actually start doing my staffing and resource allocation
based on more clear understanding of demand for those dates as opposed to
historical patterns. And that’s a real advantage for any hotel. You have a
better understanding of the total resource capacity.

What other advantages does this type of marketplace
retail strategy create for hoteliers?

You probably have also seen that Amazon has hundreds of
thousands things that you can buy that are sold by and or fulfilled by someone
else, right? Basically, what Amazon has done is they’ve created a marketplace,
and they have a strategic advantage because there is no one that can provide a
wider range of solutions.

Now imagine this in the micro scale. If I’m a
hotelier and I’m competing with four other properties … and I actually can only
talk about what’s available on my property. I’m really doing a parity play, which is I have rooms, they have rooms, which rooms look a little bit nicer? But
imagine I can start to provide a more full planning and shopping experience so
that you already know by the time you come to my property that you have an
entire itinerary set for you versus if you go to someone next door who’s not in

And what we know about travelers is that where they want
certainty, they would rather have that up front. Lots of people like to leave the
door open, get into a city, explore. … But some of us or for certain aspects of
the travel we’d rather have that locked down. This gives a hotelier a chance to
give you more of your itinerary locked down, planned and ready to go.

So what’s next for Sabre’s Retail Studio – what’s

This idea of curating experiences and curating offers is
really the next big thing to go tackle. We believe that we have, with our
partnership with Google, a lot of great first-party development opportunities
in front of us to continue to build out. … But that’s really the next big
frontier. Imagine like Amazon you now have hundreds, if not millions, of SKUs [stock keeping units].
How do you make sure you’re not just throwing it all up there, hoping someone
finds the right thing? You actually can start to say, hey, I saw you used to
buy this. I bet you’d like that. That’s the next big frontier for retailing in
the travel space.

That sounds like that’s more development of that AI/ML
piece of it?

Exactly right.


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