Global Distribution Systems (GDS) power the global travel industry, enabling travel agents to access a rich source of content and optimize revenue by delivering a personalized service to the customer.
Yet despite the innovative new and emerging capabilities that many modern GDS platforms offer, some organizations continue to use legacy systems like cryptic, or old GDS versions with limited functionality.
In using outdated technology, these travel agents are missing out on the potential revenue opportunities associated with managing bookings in a streamlined way on a single platform.
Instead, they find themselves having to switch between their chosen system and third party sites to deliver the basic level of service their customers require.
1. The benefits of GDS
Access rich content, anywhere
A GDS enables travel agents to maximize the return on every trip by adding value to each step of the customer journey.
Unlike cryptic, GDS technology provides the user with access to a wide breadth of content (including ancillary products like seat reservations), enabling them to deliver a bespoke service to every customer.
Using a single platform to book a trip is important for small to medium travel agents who cannot afford to spend time on third-party sites to check for things like air ancillaries and hotel availability.
Over half of agents (54%) spend more than 30 minutes of their day on airline websites and 26% spend over an hour.
A GDS provides a single web-based point of sale platform for travel agents who want to access travel content with interactive and graphical capabilities, while having the option to switch back to native programs like cryptic when required.
Many modern GDS solutions are available from any browser and do not require installed software, including SSL. They are also compatible with mobile, making them easy to access from any platform in any location.
Ultimately, an up-to-date GDS enables travel agents to capture every sales opportunity, upsell hotel and car rental and increase brand loyalty at the same time.
2. The future of GDS
Appeal to today’s travelers
As Millennials make up the majority of the workforce, consumer trends are changing. Global economic uncertainty and rising property prices are just two of the factors driving this group, alongside Generation Z-ers, to invest in ‘experiences’ over commodities.
These groups are spending more time on holiday research than ever before to ensure that their trip exceeds their expectations. Online research typically starts 45 days before booking, with most individuals devoting two to three hours of research per trip.
This is where ‘traditional’ travel agents can really add value to the customer experience. By using their GDS and industry expertise to access the most relevant travel options on the customer’s behalf, they can save them a lot of time that would otherwise be spend browsing the internet.
Although the average number of trips this group takes is higher than others, only 25% of Generation Z’s travel budget is allocated to flights. This reinforces just how important it is for agents to be able to search and book everything quickly through one platform: their GDS.
Attract and retain talent
Attracting talent is one of the largest challenges businesses face. In order to get the right people through the door and retain them, travel agents need to appeal to a new generation of tech-first agents as well as more experienced individuals who want to upskill.
Although GDSs still support ‘green screen’ interfaces, their geographical user interfaces (GUIs) offer a more intuitive and user-friendly experience, eliminating the need for extensive employee training (cryptic knowledge building can take up to four weeks).
Travel agents who use a modern GDS can operate in a more innovative and flexible way – innovative because they can utilize the latest technology to provide a better service and flexible because modern GDSs are able to facilitate flexible working, such as remote working.
GDSs will remain an important part of the travel market. As the industry prepares for NDC implementation in the coming months, travel agents will be able to access rich NDC content through their GDS – as long as it’s the most up-to-date version.
Features like Graphical Maps integration, TripAdvisor reviews and access to branded fares and ancillaries makes the modern GDS a future-proof solution.
Skip to the end of the next chapter to find out more.
3. GDS for air booking
Without the use of a modern GDS, booking air travel can be more complicated and time-consuming than it should be.
Simply put, a modern GDS can encourage higher margins and the opportunity to upsell by providing the agent with instant access to branded fares that include ancillaries like:
- Extra baggage allowance
- Assigned seats
- Meal preferences
- Priority boarding
Streamlining the air selling process in this way makes it more convenient and transparent for the customer, resulting in increased revenue per sale and better overall customer satisfaction.
The amount of time spent chasing additional information has an undesirable knock-on effect for the customer, who is expecting a streamlined serviced. This inevitably makes customers less inclined to book ancillaries or use the agent's services for future trips.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges agents face:
- 26% of air reservations occur outside the agent's GDS
- 71% of agents feel they cannot compete with airlines' fares
- 75% of agents book ancillaries directly with airlines
- 72% of agents leave their GDS workflow to check rates
An all-in-one GDS solution puts travel agents on a level playing field with airlines by providing access to 400+ airline networks – including traditional and low-cost carriers – plus an extensive offer of airlines’ branded fares.
A contemporary, user-friendly GDS also enables agents to view and book content in one place and workflow, without having to spend time on third party websites.
This transparency and efficiency streamlines the customer journey, increasing the likelihood they opt for ancillaries and the agent is able to retain them as repeat customers.
New Distribution Capability (NDC)
The airline industry is in the process of adopting IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) paradigm. NDC simplifies transactions between different members of the ecosystem, including travel agents, by using XML coding and enabling agents to sell ancillary products (like seat upgrades) more easily.
When NDC is fully implemented, travel agents using an up-to-date GDS will have access to an even richer source of content that will allow them to provide a differentiated service and competitive offers to customers.
Modern GDS platforms are evolving into the preferred technology partner for NDC content. All airlines currently using NDC are represented in modern GDSs, enabling agents to get to grips with how NDC works before it is fully implemented so that they don’t miss out on any relevant air content to offer their customers.
While the technological advancements made by GDS providers are helping travel agents access NDC content through a single platform, many are aware that some airlines are selling parts of their inventory exclusively through NDC-enabled connections.
As the industry moves forward, GDS providers will work to engage with more airlines to ensure content is easily accessible and stays in their channel.