The pandemic and the global lockdown created a significant impact on the travel and hospitality industries, with digital transformation playing a crucial role in overcoming some of the challenges that businesses faced. Even before the pandemic created turmoil, Sabre has been on a transformational path. Our leadership team began the year setting a vision for our organization – to help create a new marketplace for personalized travel by 2025. We have since made substantial investments to our systems, people, and processes. We also put together a transformation plan with six key pillars – personalized offers, distribution mechanism, focus on low-cost-carriers, technology transformation, full-service property management system, and continued customer partnerships.

As the pandemic caused economic woes, the hardest hit industries were travel and hospitality. However, we at Sabre viewed this crisis as an opportunity. We realized that we had our task cut out for us – we had to continue with our transformation journey, while helping our customers cope and adapt to the ‘now normal’. This included short-term measures to enable airlines and hotels to cater to their end-customers with minimal interruptions in service. At the same time, teams at Sabre were also focused on the long-term vision of helping our customers adapt to the ‘new normal’. This involved reimagining the future of travel, and regaining traveler confidence. Sabre managed to maintain the momentum on both fronts, leveraging the expertise of team members from over 62 countries globally.

The Sabre leadership played a critical role in redefining our strategy, that allowed the local leadership to rollout local implementation plans crafted to meet local requirements within the global framework. As mentioned earlier, these plans comprised of both short-term and long-term strategies for innovation, customer satisfaction, and business continuity. This enabled all our Global Capability Centers (GCC), to ensure adequate staffing and preparation to meet the exigencies of the immediate operating requirements, as well keep our eye on the long-term strategic imperatives.

Another notable aspect about Sabre as an organization is that our leadership is democratized at all levels, which allows Sabre employees to become more productive and efficient. Unlike most organizations, we do not have a top-down approach; instead, our focus is on horizontal capability development. At Sabre Bengaluru GCC, we have various programs and initiatives that run around the year, like hackathons, employee development days and communities of practice. This provides an opportunity for our team members to pitch in and take ownership for managing these initiatives end-to-end. This essentially means that they are self-appointing themselves into leadership roles, where they have the chance to demonstrate their core leadership skills and competencies. More often than not, this allows individuals to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and work on areas that require improvement. Wherever they require support, the organization will step-in and offer learning/development avenues, which will help groom them into better leaders.

A few years ago, Sabre adopted the RAPID (recommend, agree, perform, input, and decide) decision-making framework, at all levels. This ensured that team members knew their roles in each situation, which is of utmost importance in a crisis. Without having a framework like this in place, it’s highly likely that they would be in each other’s way and progress would get stalled. This foresight held us in good stead when the pandemic struck. Our leaders took cognizance of the emerging crisis much before most other organizations did, and they began tracking its biological and economic impact across the globe. We then made our global teams aware of the evolving crisis, post which all our peer offices swung into action as well. The advantage of having a democratized leadership structure in this scenario was that our local leaders in Bengaluru were empowered to take immediate action. We quickly constituted a ‘Site Operations’ team which assessed the ground situation and came up with a plan of action, to ensure the safety of our employees, and business continuity. We presented the case to our global leadership, and our Bengaluru office went into lockdown as early as March 2020, ahead of our peers. Even while working remotely from home, this team ensured that customer support, hiring, or any other business critical functions and processes were not impacted.

Our blueprint for transforming Sabre into a market leader in travel and hospitality technology is already mapped out. We are certain that these robust strategies coupled with our democratized approach to leadership, will bode well for us as we set our sights on 2025. Together with our partners like Google, we will work towards reimagining the way the world travels.