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3 lessons from Star Wars that point to the future of travel retailing

Few movies have achieved iconic status and stood the test of time quite as well as Star Wars. In fact, the Star Wars franchise, created by George Lucas in the 1970s, is one of the most successful in the world. From the moment I watched the first trilogy, I was inspired by everything the Jedi stood for and how they fought for a future they believed in. 

At some point in my pre-teen years, it became clear that fighting Stormtroopers in a galaxy far, far away wasn’t what the future had in store for me. However, the key messages of the Star Wars movies have stayed with me, and I can’t help but notice the similarities between the Jedi Order and the travel industry. 

I know it sounds like a stretch, but hear me out as I highlight 3 themes from Star Wars that I believe are most relevant to the airline industry as it seeks to transition towards a retail-powered future. 

1. Mindset

In the Star Wars movies, the Jedi were the noble guardians of peace and justice in the Galaxy, fighting to create a better future where growth and prosperity could flourish. The fight didn’t come easy, but even in the most challenging times, they still saw the light and believed in a better tomorrow. 

I refer to this as the Jedi Mindset – an ethos driven by determination, belief and the desire to escape complacency. A mentality that also requires preparation and strategic planning to overcome the obstacles of a modernized world. 

So, what if we approached the future of travel the same way? What if we adopted this Jedi Mindset and used it to drive growth and prosperity for our own industry? IATA set out their goal of 100% offer- and order-based retailing by 2030. It’s ambitious and there’s a climb ahead to turn the industry vision into reality. Sabre is doing a lot of heavy lifting right now to build the necessary technology platform, but airlines have work to do as well. Change won’t happen overnight, but with a Jedi Mindset, we can work through the challenges together and modernize travel to put the customer at the center of all we do. 

2. Innovation

The Jedi were huge proponents of innovation and understood that to succeed in a modern world required advanced technology. For the Jedi, it was the lightsaber: “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age” as Obi-Wan Kenobi described it. But for travel, it is offer- and order-based retailing. 

I realize retailing is no luminescent plasma blade, but the opportunities it presents can be hugely impactful. In the airline IT sector, we’ve reached a point where recent advancements can enable airlines to access new levels of performance that were previously unavailable.  

Firstly, common standards in areas such as NDC and ONE Order – which aim to drive greater alignment within the industry – should facilitate scalability and accelerate progress toward modern retailing. Secondly, technological advances are unlocking revenue opportunities for airlines while also improving the traveler experience. An example of this is the field of machine learning, which can drive sophisticated experimentation models that use rich, data-led insights to help airlines offer more relevant and personalized travel products based on traveler preferences.  

3. Partnership

The Jedi mindset, however, can only get you so far on your own. In life and in business, you need strong partners working alongside you to achieve a shared vision. 

In Star Wars, the partnership that stands out most to me was between Han Solo and Chewbacca. An unlikely friendship turned into a dynamic duo piloting the fastest ship in the galaxy. They were strangers from completely different backgrounds who found common ground in a shared goal and became two of the greatest heroes in the galaxy.  

In a retail-powered world of offers and orders, partnerships will play a key role in creating new opportunities for collaboration and growth. I expect airlines will form modern retailer/supplier relationships with partners across the travel ecosystem that will enable them to cross-sell everything the traveler might need as part of their trip, from flights and air ancillaries through to lodging, ground transportation, excursions and more.  

The partnership between Sabre and Google – which I’ve explored in some detail in recent blogs – is a shining example of collaboration that will benefit the wider travel ecosystem as we help digitally transform the traveler’s experience and co-create the future of travel. 

Blazing a trail

It’s no surprise to me that Star Wars is credited with revolutionizing Hollywood. It introduced the concept of the movie-franchise, flew in the face of the aesthetics and narratives of the day as a special-effects-laden blockbuster, and created innovative new tie-ins with cross-promotional items like toys. I believe the airline industry needs a radical rethink and needs to blaze a new trail in much the same way as Star Wars did 45 years ago. With the right mindset and the latest technology, backed by great partnerships, just imagine what we could accomplish.

At Sabre, we’re innovating to power the future of our industry. We’re here as your trusted resource for solutions that enable you to continue to think differently and take advantage of a future open with possibilities. Learn more today.

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Mike Reyes

Vice President, Platform Product Management

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