By Gemma Greenwood
GDS provider focuses on tailoring agent training needs to specific markets.
Ambitious GDS provider Sabre Travel Network Middle East (STNME) has unveiled plans to enter the Saudi Arabian market in the next month.
"We are opening three new offices in Saudi Arabia, one of our main markets in the region, focusing specifically on the Eastern Province, and we are aiming to have those open by the end of the first quarter," the company's CEO Daniel Naoumovitch told Arabian Travel News.
"So far things are moving at the pace we anticipated. There's quite a bit of administration, but we believe the timing is right."
Where Sabre will excel in a region where rival GDS players Amadeus and Galileo currently dominate in the overall market share stakes is through its tailormade training programmes, according to Naoumovitch.
"We have the only ladies training department being offered today," he said.
"That is obviously being taken advantage of in various countries, including Saudi Arabia where we send out a trainer to some of the bigger agencies that have ladies sections."
When the three new KSA offices prepare to open their doors they will be supported by an enhanced KSA team.
Naoumovitch noted that Sabre had 13 offices across the region making it easier to send out trainers to assess training requirements of individual agencies in individual markets.
"We also have e-services training and some of our reference books are published in Arabic also, which means that not only do we offer the global expertise that Sabre has amassed over its long history as a GDS but we're also here locally and providing a product in the local language to support the needs that we have here," he explained.
In addition to KSA expansion, Sabre has also ramped up its employee numbers in the Middle East, appointing an additional business development manager and an area manager in Abu Dhabi.
The company is also moving in to a new office in Dubai and has appointed a new area manager in Levant.
Sabre was established in 2004 in conjunction with Gulf Air and is therefore the key GDS player in Bahrain Naoumovitch said.
"Not only are we the leading GDS but we grew more in 2007 and our market share is greater than that of all other vendors together [in Bahrain]," he claimed.
"We are also going to be maintaining our leadership in Oman as well Yemen and we're expanding in all those locations - and enforcing our sales activities there."
He said there were plans to expand Sabre's training facility in Bahrain, which currently boasts help desk employees.
"We will be offering a second level of support in the region; what that means is that previously, if there was an area of support that would have gone outside Bahrain, it will now be done locally, so any discrepancies in fares or questions from travel agencies will be handled in Bahrain," he added.