This is a view from Carsten Schaeffer, VP for Germany and the Nordics at Sabre Travel Network. Read more in the Executive Pulse series here

The concept of personalization continues to be an important buzzword in the travel industry. The new normal comes from retail companies that provide data-driven customization to their customers. Travelers expect a degree of this experience when flying on airlines, working with travel agencies and staying in hotels.

Yet there are some clear cultural differences when it comes to traveler expectations. For those of us working across borders in Europe, this is especially important. Product features targeted to one country might prove less desirable in another. By capturing the consumer’s shifting preference, travel businesses can maintain relevancy across cultures.

Sabre recently surveyed 1,000 travelers in Germany to explore their perspectives on personalization. When compared with the results of our counterparts in the UK, here are some critical differences that set Germany apart.

Room for growth in airlines

One of the biggest outcomes from the survey was that only 11 percent of respondents thought of airlines when it comes to personalization. Hotels fared much better, with 45 percent of Germans associating hotels with personalization. The result indicates that for many, hotels are a place of personal engagement. The front desk should know my name and the services should cater to my personal preferences.

This does not hold true on airplanes. The average respondent does not feel that the experience is in any way personalized. The result is surprising, in the sense that much of airline revenue comes from a la carte ancillaries. The idea being that “build your own” makes it a more personalized experience.


Germans associate hotels the most with personalization.

For airlines, outside of class, there are fewer opportunities to  differentiate one seat from another. The opportunity lies in retailing new items and comforts that allow each traveler to build their own experience.

This finding also suggests room for improvement as far as airline reputation. German passengers just do not see airline add-ons as personalization, which suggests a potential marketing approach for airlines.

Ancillaries remain popular

Only 9 percent of respondents said they want NO extra to their trip. So that leaves the other 9 in 10 people who want extras when they fly and stay in hotels. This is a much greater percentage of travelers than in the UK. It indicates that Germans are interested in personalizing the travel experience above and beyond the base fare.

9 out of 10 Germans interested in purchasing extras when flying or staying in a hotel.


It also highlights potential latent demand in the ancillary menu. Is there an extra add-on that your passengers want to pay for but currently are unable to?

A survey, focus group or other engagement with passengers could reveal some of the best kinds of opportunities: where the customer is eager to pay for a service the business can provide. And often it’s about the combination of ancillaries

And often it’s about the combination of ancillaries. The grouping of available options challenges effective personalization. With so many unique combinations, personalization must be more than just a few set standards.


Many unique ancillary combinations.

Communicating with the traveler

Personalized offers convert better. This is the truth that e-commerce retailers have been profiting on for many years. There’s a reason that Amazon tweaks its results so precisely: It works. The consumer will spend more money when the offer speaks directly to them.

E-commerce in Germany was worth Euro 59.87 billion in 2015, says a report from


Of course, we must all remember that German citizens have specific rights when it comes to data privacy and email marketing. Brands must be thorough and transparent when it comes to marketing in this region. Regardless of location, trying to “fool” a customer is always a terrible idea. Instead, provide useful recommendations and services that enhance the experience. Understand the traveler and the traveler will respond with their money.

In our survey, German travelers wanted communications to be personalized. Here’s how: Companies address me by name in communications (61%), companies only send me offers and services that are relevant to my interests or situation (57%), companies know my past history with them and reflect this when they communicate with me (44%), and companies only send me offers and services that are relevant to my location (34%).


How Germans want communications to be personalized.

Location-based offers are actually preferred more among Germans than within the UK. In fact, only 27 percent of those in the UK wanted personalised offers based on location data.

Look for inspiration across industries

Hospitality is on the right track. It was the number one industry that respondents thought of when it comes to personalization. This is exactly as it should be. We provide an experience that matches to a specific trip, person or need. One experience doesn’t match everyone.

That’s not to say we can’t learn. Many Germans see banks as personalization experts, as well as those companies delivering technology and music. Music, banks and technology are quite personal — just like travel. Tastes and trends affect behavior. After all, where you go, what you listen to and what devices you use reflects back as part of your personality.

Take some time and break down what works in personalization for you — and what you find invasive. There are demographic overlaps with others that might inform your travel brand’s personalization efforts. It’s also possible that you’ll discover a whole new appreciation for the value of personalization. After all, Germany and the UK are different in some ways but similar in others. A nuanced approach across the continent delivers revenue results worth the investment in time and technology.

Finally, personalization pays off: 50% of travelers said that they would be more loyal to their travel supplier if they were to receive personalized offers.

This is a view from Carsten Schaeffer, VP for Germany and the Nordics at Sabre Travel Network. Read more in the Executive Pulse series here.