Scope of GDS services increasing - CynterPubs Hospitality Tech Advisor

Optimizing exposure to the public and to the multitude of sales channels available to buyers is one of the greatest challenges of hoteliers today.
With so many marketing options available, it is important to be aware of what is going on in the distributions industry and to keep a sharp eye out for opportunities to simplify the marketing and distribution process. The Global Distribution Systems industry, comprised mainly of Amadeus, Galileo/Apollo, Sabre and Worldspan, are among those that are doggedly searching for ways to lift the marketing labor burden from hoteliers while expanding their services and distribution.
One major push in the GDS industry is an increase in opportuni-ties for independent hotels and bed and breakfasts to enjoy the benefits of being included on the GDS. “We take very seriously the niche travel [market] that more and more people are looking for,” says JoAnn Svejcar, director of sales and marketing for Worldspan. “[Travelers] are able to see these other properties in other travel offerings and out on the Internet, and they’re looking to their travel agencies to not only be able to book the more traditional lines of business but also less traditional, more niche kinds of suppliers.”
Recent history has also seen a broadening of travel services and value adds as the GDSs have pushed out new offerings for hotels, consumers and agents in an effort to remain an appealing, high-value sales channeland offer the latest technology to users. “[The GDSs] are diversifying through strategic alliances,” claims Roland Tanner, vice presi-dent of IT and distribution for Utell Hotels, a Pegasus Solutions Inc. company. “They have realized that they can compete better if, rather than building everything themselves, they form a strategic partnership with another company that can offer that piece of func-tionality or that distribution opportunity for hotels.”
An example of such a partner-ship is Worldspan’s alliance with Inc., a Web site for meeting and event planners. Through the partnership, Worldspan’s travel agents can take advantage of Passkey’s group booking tools and tap into the lucrative event planning industry. “While [the GDSs] are very good at the heavy lifting [of handling and displaying travel data], there are people in the travel industry who have come up with terrific solutions that our travel agents need and our hoteliers need, such as Passkey,” says Svejcar.
Louise Meyer, director of hotel sales and marketing for Galileo and member of the board of directors for HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association), says that that the GDSs are also expanding their availability beyond their tradi-tional travel agent networks. “Now, we are unleashing the power of the GDS and putting that not only in the hands of the travel agents but also in the hands of corporate travel departments and the ultimate travelers themselves.”
As a result, hoteliers must be much more cognizant of what they are providing to the GDSs in the way of current and reliable information. “[Hoteliers] need to make sure that they have the descriptive information about their hotels up to date, fresh and current, because they are painting a picture with words of their property. And it doesn’t apply just to descriptive data, but to the rate information and to the availability itself,” Meyer adds.
And in helping hoteliers maintain the integrity and reliabil-ity of their hotel information, rates and availability, the GDSs are beginning to provide a new way for hotels to connect to the GDSs. “Second generation seam-less is the latest and greatest level of connectivity the GDSs offer,” says Tanner. “Previously, [buyers] were accessing the GDS data-base, which was just a copy of what the hotel sent the GDS. [Now,] they’re actually looking at the hotel’s [live] inventory, rates and information.” With this new type of connection, updating hotel information on the GDS happens automatically, and every time the hotel database is accessed buyers see the most current information available.
Adds Svejcar, “The heavy lifting that all of the GDSs do well is going to live beyond the fun part of e-commerce purchase. Pictures don’t mean much if, when you try to buy a room that’s [listed] at $80 it’s either not available or it’s $135. The con-sumer industry has realized that the integrity of that data is really huge.”
By proactively addressing the needs of users, the GDSs have captured a substantial portion of the hotel bookings being made worldwide. Says Meyer, “Last year, from an overall GDS per-spective, the segments booked via the GDS increased 11 percent. So, for the hotelier, you have double-digit growth [of GDS bookings] and a lot of consumer demand pushing through the channel.”