After a decade away, Jeff Katz—the erstwhile CEO of Sabre, Travelocity and Orbitz—turned up in a new role at ASTA’s Global Conference in Reno.
As a senior executive at American Airlines, and then as head of the biggest GDS and the first online travel agency, Katz was a fixture at travel-industry events in the 1990s and 2000s. Katz currently is the CEO and managing partner of KA Holdings, an investment firm in travel, technology and environmental businesses. Last week he made a 10-minute appearance at an ASTA press conference before being whisked behind closed doors to address ASTA’s Premium Members.
In a brief presentation with little fanfare, Katz introduced his newest tech venture, on which he is partnering with the Boston Consulting Group, with funding from American and United Airlines, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, Intercontinental Hotel Group, and Marriott International. It is an “experience management platform,” a new architecture for the travel industry whose core element will be the Global Experience Record, or GXR.
“The objective is to reshape the traveler experience through the innovative use of data incorporating travel provider data across travel verticals, making the travel experience more seamless across airlines, hotels, ground transportation, restaurants and entertainment," said the description in the ASTA program.
Katz stepped up from American Airlines to head the industry-leading Sabre GDS, launching Travelocity and then spinning it off from Sabre, then going on to head Swissair, Orbitz and LeapFrog, the producer of educational technology products for children.
Today, Katz said, “the new currency is data,” and the system he is building will “help manage this currency in an open-source approach that will help people aggregate information. I think it will lead to better travel experiences over time and a new kind of inventory that's focused on the travel experience rather than how I book or how I search.”
Pushed for a concrete example, Katz suggested that if a traveler’s flight is delayed, the system could automatically advise his Uber driver and the Marriott to which he is headed of the delay.
So is it be a product for travel agencies? “Anybody can participate in its use,” Katz said. “It's an open system.”
In the end, it will allow agencies to “focus more on customer support and support and planning and creating experiences for clients."