A global distribution system (GDS) is a database capable of storing and updating enormous information on the supply of a wide range of tourism products worldwide. GDSs enable the travel agents to access, in real-time, availability, features and prices of flight tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, cruises, ferry reservations, trains and other services. With a Global distribution system integrated to their website, travel agencies can allow their customers to search and book travel products and services and issue tickets too.
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Global Distribution System
Travel agencies are greatly aided by GDS systems or travel distribution platforms because they are enabled to offer their customers rates, inventory, discounts, rooms, and descriptions on a real-time basis. In other words, global distribution systems are intermediaries between travel product suppliers –and travel retailers who sell tickets to the final consumer.
Main features of GDS:
• Report availability and prices of travel products
• Reserve user requests.
• Sale and ticketing
• Track sales (extend customer’s stay, change of flights, etc).
• Facilitates control management for travel agencies).
Evolution of GDS
The prototype of GDS in the travel industry can be seen in the 1950s as the traditional legacy business model which inter-operated between airline vendors. Computer reservation systems (CRS), at the initial stage, was used by the airline companies as an automated booking system, but later, travel agents were given access. Around 1980, CRS enabled travel agents to connect to various travel providers in a single system. At this stage, in addition to flights, hotels and car rentals were included. CRS acquired much strength by late 80s being so helpful to both suppliers and distributors. In the 90s, computerized reservation systems of airlines were transformed to global distribution systems (GDS). So we see that GDS has developed from airline alliances and ended up becoming independent business units with product internationalization and introduction of new products, especially hotel rooms.
GDS integration for travel agencies and suppliers of travel products
Travel agencies must have full access to a global distribution system GDS. To get connected to a GDS, travel agencies need a contract. This will enable the travel agents to provide an astonishing amount of travel product rates and information to their customers, at the lowest possible rates. An experienced travel technology company can integrate any GDS to the computer reservation system or website of a travel agency.
It’s critical also for the properties to be on a GDS. Travelers now go to travel portals to find travel products. So hotels, car rentals, etc, have to be there to get Internet visibility and, thus, more reservations. A GDS allows real-time access to inventory system of a hotel with the current prices, discounts, room types, facilities like Wi-Fi and different aspects of interest to the potential customer.
Owners can hire a good travel technology company to get access to the GDS of their choice. A property can be connected only in one GDS provider. If the property owner wants to change the provider, he can cancel the existing provider and activate another with a switch letter.
How much does it cost?
To integrate GDS to your system, you’ll have to pay a one-time setup cost and pay a monthly charge of a minimum amount per reservation.
Major GDS systems
Amadeus was started in 1987 by Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa, and SAS in order to create a European GDS, by fusing their CRSs. In 1989, seven more airlines joined Amadeus and began to allow travel agents to book flights through neutral screens. It is now the largest leisure package distributor in the world. Through Amadeus GDS integration, a travel agent can offer travel products from 430 airlines in 195 countries, 32 car rental companies in 37,918 locations, 20 cruise lines and 300,000 hotel properties. More than 100,000 travel agencies are connected with Amadeus GDS.
Sabre, a joint venture by American Airlines and IBM, was started in 1960. In 1970, Sabre system began to be installed in travel agencies. Now 55,000 travel agencies use Sabre GDS to book products from 400 airlines, 88,000 hotels, 24 car rental brands, and 13 cruise lines.
Galileo and Worldspan are the other two major GDSs. There are also third party consolidators like Sahara, Infini (Japan), Axess (Japan), Tapas (Korea), Fantasia (South Pacific), and Abacus (Asia/Pacific) that cater to particular regions or countries.
The big consolidators also include such as Expedia, Orbitz (Merchant program registration needed), Hotels.com, Travelocity, AAA, Hotwire, Priceline and TravelWeb.
The future of GDS
As a tool of of content aggregation, GDS is here to stay and be more powerful. Novel technological solutions in middleware continue to appear. Global distribution systems have a long way to go.