Home / Sabre Launches AgentStream Germany With Resounding Thump

Sabre Launches AgentStream Germany With Resounding Thump

In travel news from Germany, online travel giant Sabre Group has announced the launch of a social networking platform here in Germany. AgentStream is theoretically designed for travel agents in Germany to be able to engage the social web, at least this is what the over four thousand global participants at AgentStream hope. But aside the obvious PR push of this, is the platform really all that social? It looks more like a push to keep up with Travelport than anything.

Update One: I made an small error when telling of the association between Sabre, AgentStream, and Tnooz. This is the exact disclaimer from Tnooz regarding this: Full disclosure: Tnooz has a content partnership with Sabre Travel Network in which some Tnooz articles appear in AgentStream.

Sabre's AgentStream

A thing of beauty, instilling confidence in every travel agent no doubt

According to Sabre’s partner in this social experiment, Tnooz, “Sabre wants travel agents in Germany to get a bit more social.” Well, I am not exactly a travel agent, but we are creating a travel experience of our own, and helping create one for one of the biggest travel startups in the world, Stay dot com. Already my BS antenna have been lifted as I try to sign up for this AgentStream platform only to find it’s an exclusive club – open to only affiliated “on the ground” travel types.

Oh, okay. So Sabre just wants agents to socialize with one another. So why all the fuss? An email campaign would suffice without waking up us social gurus. The site claims AgentStream is the largest travel agent community in the world. Okay, several things here guys. I mean from someone who has busted it testing startups for years – tens of thousands of them.

Sorry, but being able to AXE a question of other travel agents, from inside a closed social sphere? This is hardly cutting edge.  As you can see in the screen from Sabre herself, what we have here is a sort Twitter slash Facebook dash instant messenger? All this needs is a digg button to be cutting edge 5 years ago.

Okay, inside it does not look too bad.

Okay, the nav looks okay, but I need to see the utility here

First off, your landing page is the most crucial element, in as far as conversions are concerned. Why? If I have to explain, you need to contact our offices for some paid help. I mention this because of one instantly onerous aspect of your site (so far), I discovered. Either A – you have dead links to key information any potential user might click on – or B – your site is not optimized for Opera (hint: under “Explore & Partners”). In either case, you just lost an opportunity. How big? You will never know. Nuff said there.

Sabre lanches a super secret social network for agents

Super secret agent social networks - the coming fad in travel

Next verse, same as the first. If Sabre wants to go all “social” on the world, better get some social peeps to explain things. If AgentStream is going to be any kind of a brand, you guys need some faces up there to at least suggest transparency. Okay, we know you are just trying to snatch more agents into the herd, but maybe some of them would like to know who the hell they will be dealing with. A social network should at least imply there are humanoids inside, even a walled garden like this one. And then there is the form fill. OMG, this had to come straight from Sabre Travel Network corporate headquarters, I can hear the rhetoric now:

Tom: Hey Bob, you ever get that social thingy working? Bob: Yes, but it is incomplete and full of bugs, the innovation is just not there yet. Tom: Oh hell, launch it any way, those German Internet users won’t even know the difference.”

Coinciding with ITB Berlin was a brilliant move on Sabre’s part. At least if you consider most German firms are about as web savvy as Fred Flintstone. I doubt many would even take note of the things I mention. But then there are people in the know who take such things seriously. If Germany and the rest of Europe (which is mostly connected via kite string leading to tin cans) are not offended, why should I be? Because Sabre has massive resources at their disposal – and this is just mediocre.

Even if they can pull the wool over the eyes of some Berlin insurance investors, doing things wrong is just wrong.

Cute Travelport Opinions landing

Are these guys kidding?

It cost more for the lawyers who wrote these terms than it did to create this website. If hollow hype from huge corporations does not make you mad, I will be mad for you. We, all  of us, operate most of the time on flimsy resources. We do the best we can, working hard to establish a name, or provide a product. Then some bozo in corporate America decides to slide yet another one past. This is a huge credibility problem, whether every soon to be defunct European travel agent sees it or not.

The only positive I can find for this release is the fact that Sabre’s competition, Travelport’s Opinions, is a blind agent signup with only slightly more personality. I actually just mailed them to “let me in” so I could show our readers inside. It looks like Travelport avoided educated ire by simply making a “blind” startup landing. I just hope their variant does not have the feel of Wylie Coyote’s ACME rocket.

Before I sign off this rant, I hope the Sabre team can answer just one question. “How can AgentStream be the largest community of travel agents when Travel Daily News reports Opinions as having more users?” Just wondering who is fudging the line here.

More when we look inside, but usually the outside cover says a great deal – and the pitch.  Enjoy the Sabre video below from AgentStream in 2010. Another hint, the corporate site has not even updated the user pic showcased for the profile. Not many would notice that tho.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Phillip,

    I’m actually quite glad you brought up many of the points you refer to in your post so they can be addressed.

    Regarding AgentStream being the “largest travel agent community in the world” – simply put, based on the facts, it is.

    The term that seems to continue to be “fudged” in reality is what defines a “travel professional” related to these private communities where travel agents are told they can securely exchange information between other agents.

    In the case of the other community you mention, it is not exclusive to travel agents, while it may imply that it is in its marketing materials.

    That community’s membership numbers include nearly 1,000 employees of Travelport, as well as apparently any other warm body who happens to wander onto the site to register. How do I know? I’m one of them.

    Instead, AgentStream takes the time to collect information that helps us validate as much as possible up front whether or not a new registrant is a true travel agent, and we’ve processed and turned away just as many registrants as we have activated since our launch in 2008.

    We’re picky. And we’re proud of it.

    Member privacy is of utmost concern and we respect their time unequivocally, so we don’t allow just anyone off of the street into this community. Instead, our goal is to offer a tool that saves time for our agents and puts valuable information at their fingertips, enabling them to spend more time providing even better service to their end-travelers worldwide.

    We provide a limited level of access to suppliers, to ensure agents’ personally identifiable information isn’t disclosed, but they are still able to access supplier information they need. And we certainly don’t count those suppliers in our membership numbers as other communities may choose to do.

    Regarding the features offered in our community, we’ve built AgentStream based on direct feedback from our Sabre Travel Network customer-base of over 200,000 travel agents worldwide. And resoundingly they are aligned with the trends of social technology today, with Q&A being one of the most heavily used features just as the “Quoras” of the world rapidly grow in popularity.

    Overall, AgentStream is tailored to meet their needs, and while I certainly welcome and appreciate constructive feedback, the feedback I care about the most and that will always take priority is that of my true travel agent pros around the globe.

    Cheers,
    -SKE

    • Phil Butler says

      @ Sarah, Thanks for the rapid, and rather complete response. I am sure that Sabre is very proud of this agent tool, and I know the company does an extraordinary job in any number of realms. I am a stickler, maybe a bit too picky myself, and thus the criticism of the front door of the business. I guess my only question at the moment is: “With almost three years to market this tool, and adequate resources, if it is so worthy, how come the other 194,000 travel agents decided not to use it?”

      I know many agents are still stuck in the “brick and mortar” world of the travel industry, and for companies like TUI here in Germany, success has been derived from the “face to face” encounter. So my guess for European agents would be, they simply know so little about digital engagement, they are obtuse about the whole social sphere. Don’t mean to sound too sharp here Sarah, but my circle of associates invented this game.

      Any how, I look forward to discovering more about Sabre’s (and all the rest of the online travel players) initiatives and ongoing progress. Obviously (if you read my stuff at all) you guys know I love to applaud or boo equally well. Again, thanks for your very timely (wired Sabre peeps) response. And cheers too you until next time.

      Always,
      Phil

  2. says

    Thanks Phil.

    Your question regarding adoption is another good one.

    While AgentStream did launch in 2008 on our proprietary Cubeless community platform, it did so in closed beta with a defined set of agent customers so that we could observe and gather feedback on how they were using the tool, what additional features were needed, etc.

    The beta lasted for a little over a year, and at that time in late 2009 was when we opened it up to all agents to register. In October 2010 a formal Social Solutions team was created and is now dedicated to enhancing our portfolio of social technology innovations just like this.

    Specifically regarding adoption across the rest of our customer-base, I failed to mention that Cubeless is a platform on which over 30 communities – including AgentStream – are built.

    This includes additional travel agent communities that are exclusive to some of our larger travel agency customers and partners, such as Nexion, Jetset Travelworld, and many others.

    These communities are not open to all agents for registration, while AgentStream is available to all agents regardless of what their agency – big or small – is able to directly provide.

    When taking those additional communities into account, we currently have approximately 20,000 travel agents using a community built on our core Cubeless platform.

    Hope that helps add some clarification.

    Thanks again for the open dialogue, as discussions like this can only help inspire us all to continually build better solutions to meet the needs of our customers.

    -SKE

    • Phil Butler says

      @Sarah, Thanks again Sarah for taking the time to clarify some of this stuff. I remember Sabre launching the Cubeless aspect I believe. I am still having a bit of trouble justifying some of this, and wrapping my mind around these numbers.

      Taking a look at Compete (or Alexa), I know Cubeless is a fairly complex platform, and one which is hosted, but even at the height of Cubeless or AgentStream visibility, not many visited those sites. Just a bit puzzled? I guess most of the marketing, social media aspect, even traditional media outreach just died out once agents and other organizations adopted? Any way, I appreciate you taking all the time to help with these clarifications.

      I hope I get the chance to properly test both these platforms Sarah.

      Always,
      Phil

  3. says

    Phil,
    Cubeless.com traffic doesn’t represent any of the traffic to the communities built on its platform – only its development sandbox where we offer live demos and trials to customers.

    This is a customizable platform that is hosted separately based on the individual community owner’s preference, with more than half using it as an enterprise solution sitting behind a corporate firewall.

    Thus, measuring its use with generic traffic sites like Compete or Alexa would be a complete misrepresentation of its use.

    Hope that helps.

    -SKE

    • Phil Butler says

      Yes, no way to evaluate with any certainty the actual user base, demographics, or much of anything except digital footprints. Looks like I will have to test more thoroughly as to user value etc. I will do a more thorough job on Everything PR News and update this article if need be too Sarah. Best until the next go round, and thanks again.

      Always,
      Phil

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