The following interview was a spotlight session during GBTA 2021 in November. Our special thanks to Rita Visser for joining us at the Sabre booth!

Kathy Morgan: For those who may not know you (I don’t know how anyone could not know you!), Rita Visser of Oracle—I think you have brought the voice of the corporate buyer to NDC in a way that no one else has and have been instrumental in bringing the need for representation forward in this conversation, so thank you!

Without saying too much, we’ve had a little bit of a minute here trying to kind of figure out what this new world looks like. So, tell me, as you think about where Oracle is today, how have the priorities changed or what’s different about Oracle’s priorities as it relates to your travel program since the last GBTA convention [in 2019]?

Rita Visser: I wouldn’t say our priorities have changed. There’s just been more emphasis on them, and that really is experience, employee experience.

From an Oracle perspective, we’re out focusing on our customer experience all the time. I don’t have customers except for Oracle travelers, so as [airlines] are focusing on the customer experience, I need to focus on the customer experience, which is my traveler.

So, we’re looking at things like, how can we get them information when they need it? Is all the information accurate? Where is all the information—is it easy to find, is it accessible? That’s on the front side of it. Then, through the experience—how are we tracking when they’re out booking, out shopping? What are their behaviors there? What have we learned from that and what do we need to change in our program as a result of that? Again, to make sure it’s easier for them.

Our focus prior, through the pandemic, and now, is all about the experience.

KM: As well as being a GBTA Board Director, you’re also a long-standing member of the IATA Travel Manager Advisory Group (TMAG) which is all about bringing the voice of the corporate buyer to the environment. You’ve been in this NDC space for a while—if you had to say what emoji fits the way you feel about NDC right now, which would you be? Why?

RV:  The cowboy emoji—because it’s new frontier. And I like Yellowstone!

KM: I love it, and everyone looks good in a cowboy hat! What would make you smile more about NDC?

RV: It’s interesting, because buyers come to me all the time and say to me—we’ve been talking about this for a long time, when is it going to be real? I think I would smile when other buyers can feel it, can see it, can touch it.

We’ve been talking about it for years now, and my role within all of this, from that frontier perspective to the happiness perspective, is helping them understand it’s a journey. Where are we on the journey? What can they anticipate? What are the questions they can be asking? I think there’s still some lack of awareness on it. It would get me to [smiley face] if there was more buyer awareness on the benefits, the attributes, and the questions they should be asking.

KM: IATA had their DDR conference (Distribution, Data and Retailing Symposium) a few weeks ago, and we saw leaders from Microsoft and McKinsey on-stage saying they want to “see the value” in terms of NDC content. What type of NDC content would you find compelling and valuable for Oracle and why?

RV: There’s a bunch—I did a session yesterday on NGS (Next Generation Storefront) and I told them the same thing I’m going to tell you. I must be an acronym girl—I’m all for NGS, all for NDC, it’s all about optionality and bringing your travelers a solution that they can find at the point of sale that helps them—again, it’s about the experience. If right now, if I’m going to buy something here and I have to get additional content somewhere else, that isn’t a great experience for our buyers. It’s giving them options that they can’t get right now. I’d love to have conversations with my airline partners to say, this needs to happen on every single one of our tickets, and the only way to do that is through content that’s brought through in a very meaningful fashion, with NDC.

KM: Hopefully we’re going to get there—Lord knows we’re gonna die trying! Inherent to the idea of “seeing value” is being confident about what you’re buying—that’s a huge part of the way you think about managing corporate travel. The one thing I think is interesting is that NDC transitions offer creation to airlines, which introduces a level of opacity to the marketplace that doesn’t exist today. As you think about moving further from filed fares—so many corporate programs are around the lowest logical fare and getting the best value for your money—how does the shift toward retailing align with your objectives and affect your confidence as a corporate buyer?

RV: Really good question. I think it goes back to buyers still trying to figure out—if my average ticket price goes up, it’s more than the cost of a ticket now, how do I explain that? Does it look like I’m not doing my job? It’s about knowing how to have interim conversations.

We actually care more about the offer than we do about the fare. It is on my GDS provider and my OBT provider and my agency provider to help me to understand that. You have to be able to have the conversation internally to say, even if the data’s not there yet, you’ve got to trust me. We’re going to see costs go up, but if you think about the downward effects—I can create a bundle for NDC that gives me a seat, a bag and Wi-Fi for everybody—I can go to my expense team and say that I’ve removed 3 line items from the expense process for you (thank you!), and secondly, I’ve also saved us money because I’ve been able to put it all in one offering. If we’re looking at it from a transactional and average ticket price perspective, we aren’t going to move forward.

KM: It’s this notion of total value—the tools and technology to get us there is really important. Yesterday we announced the launch of NDC content in GetThere, very excited about that. Has the ability of the OBTs to deliver NDC been a focus topic for the TMAG?

RV: Yes. It’s great that our airline partners are putting NDC content into Sabre—my travelers don’t see it. Pre-pandemic, about 90% of our bookings started on a booking tool. Well, if you aren’t going to put the content in the booking tool, all the work that you did to put the information into the pipe doesn’t get anywhere. Let’s be clear, my travelers should never know that this is NDC content, GDS content—because the front face of the OBTs should say “here’s what I have”. On the TMAG perspective, it’s been one of our hot topic conversations because we know that the pipe has been created, it’s the display right now that continues to be the challenge. So, congratulations on that announcement yesterday. We’ve had a lot of conversations with Tracy [Bordbar] on your team in the past, so I’m excited to dive into that.

KM: Overall, how would you grade the OBTs on how they’re progressing on this?

RV: C+

KM: That’s consistent with what I’m hearing too—to your point, if it’s not on the glass, it just doesn’t matter.

Thank you so much, I really appreciate your time and advocacy for the corporate buyer. The role you play and your willingness to share are so important!