To Raise Its Game In Travel Big Data, Sabre Launches New Developer Portal, Advanced APIs

A month into its new life as a public company, Sabre is unveiling some new services to raise its profile with developers in a bid to grow its business through third parties.

Today the travel data company is launching a new portal, the Sabre Dev Studio, which gives access to some 150 APIs, testing tools, documentation, prototypes and sample code, as well as a new set of APIs focussed on e-commerce and semantic searches.

The developer portal — with code mostly developed by Sabre itself, but with the portal built by Mashery — is a first for Sabre: The company says it will be the first time that it’s brought together a lot of these services into one accessible place.

The move comes amidst a lot of changes afoot at Sabre and the wider travel industry. Sabre itself has been trying to streamline its business in the wake of an IPO that valued the company at less than the $5 billion private equity firms had paid in the past to buy it out. It has been in the midst of a restructuring that has involved layoffs, outsourcing parts of its IT operations and more.

But in a landscape where a lot of companies these days are providing free APIs to grow their audience, Sabre is taking a more conservative, bottom-line approach. Its APIs, by and large, will remain commercial.

“Depending on the product in question, it could be a transaction model, a subscription model, a revenue share model,” says Sean Arena, chief commercial officer for the Sabre Travel Network. He adds that some may be free for certain periods of time or to test new services.

He does, however, admit that this approach is not always easy to maintain. “I would say that we’ve seen an active need for more advanced services [in our APIs] with the price point decreasing but we think there’s value in the overall portfolio,” he says.

The bigger picture in the travel industry is that there has been an explosion of apps and Internet-based services that rely on travel data. As a measure of how this has grown, Arena says that in the 1990s Sabre saw an average of 3,000 transactions per second using its data. Today that number has ballooned up to 99,000 transactions per second.

Companies like Sabre have traditionally competed against the likes of Travelport, Amadeus and Google-owned ITA to supply travel agencies and online travel-booking portals with data on flights, hotels and other aspects of trip planning.

Now the net that Sabre and its rivals target has widened to include a range of apps that rely on this data either as a secondary source of information — for example, think here of a site like Gogobot, which is mainly focused on people sharing their travel plans with each other but also lets you book places to stay. Additionally, consider that some like Google have a very immediate link to consumers by way of its search portal.

Sabre already has a fairly extensive business with traditional partners using its API-based data. Arena says the company processes over 1.5 billion transactions daily and $100 billion is spent annually. Now it hopes its newer APIs based around “intelligent” and semantic algorithms will help it be a part of that wider conversation.

What does that mean? The examples Sabre gives of the new wave of searches covers things like six-month calendar shopping for tickets, looking across hundreds of alternate airports, and shopping by budget or “theme.”

Arena describes its new technology as “a patent pending extension… The way in which it works it takes millions of precomputed and crowdsourced travel options that we derive from our search algorithms and syncs them in a cloud environment that can interrogate massive quantities of data at lightening fast rate. It’s pretty groundbreaking expertise.”

The result for consumers will be more, and more efficient, services tuned in to how we more naturally think about travel. For example, there are now APIs and code on Sabre’s site that will let a developer create a service for people to search based on a particular budget, or based on beach destinations, or details on the best time to try to buy a ticket — playing on the idea that portals offer surge pricing at certain times. If you think about it, these new approaches to travel cover the same area where a lot of travel-related startups, or those looking to do more in travel, are also putting their efforts.

“Travelers want more personalization. They want to shop for travel in new ways and in the places they choose, whether at travel agencies, online travel sites, search engines, or social sites.  Travelers want to be inspired and they want the experience to be easy and intuitive,” Greg Webb, president of Sabre Travel Network, said in a statement.