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How to choose a GDS for your travel agency

July 2, 2019
Lorraine Salmond
Lorraine Salmond

Global Distribution Systems (GDS) power the global travel industry. Aside from giving travel agents access to a rich source of content, they also help agencies drive revenue by delivering a personalized service to customers. Yet, despite the innovative capabilities that many modern GDS platforms offer, some agencies continue to use legacy systems like cryptic, or old GDS versions, with limited functionality. If you are one of those agencies using outdated technology, you are missing out on the potential revenue opportunities that comes with managing bookings in a streamlined way on a single platform. You’re also missing the opportunity to truly show your value to customers.

Here, we’ll look at the benefits of using a modern GDS and what you should look for when choosing a GDS partner.

The benefits of upgrading to a modern GDS

Access rich content, anywhere, without leaving your workflow

Do you find yourself switching between your chosen system and third-party sites to deliver the basic level of service your customers need? You’re not alone. Our research found that 54% of agents spend more than 30 minutes of their day on airline websites and 26% spend over an hour. Using a single platform to book a trip is important for travel agents who can’t afford to spend time searching multiple sites and platforms to check for air ancillaries and hotel availability. 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.

How to choose a GDS

Appeal to today’s travelers 

As millennials make up the majority of the workforce, consumer trends are changing. These groups value experiences over commodities and are spending more time on holiday research than ever before. 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.;

Attract and retain talent

To attract and retain the right talent, 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 graphical 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 use the latest technology to provide a better service and flexible because modern GDSs are able to facilitate flexible working, such as remote working.

Future-proof solution 

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.

How to choose a GDS

Tips for choosing a GDS partner

Now that we have covered why GDSs are so important to the travel industry, let’s look at how you can go about choosing one for your agency. With so many GDS options available on the market today, it can be difficult for travel agents to decide which to invest in. You need a solution that uses real-time inventory; one that consolidates products and services across all sectors (air, hotel and car). But a really good GDS will also be designed with user – and therefore the end traveler – in mind.

Here’s what to look out for:

1. Customizable

Businesses across all industries have the ability to customize and personalize their services, and those who don’t run the risk of losing out to the competition. Customers have come to expect it.  With the help of a modern GDS, travel agents can customize their interface to meet the needs and preferences of their own team, which is why users can toggle between the cryptic and GUI interface if and when necessary.  A modern GDS will enable agents to conduct refined searches quickly and book options that fit with the customer’s requirements. In turn, it’s more likely they will return as a repeat customer.

2. Maximizing value 

Providing personalized service, responding to inquiries swiftly and adapting to specific customer requirements are qualities that help travel agents optimize revenue, build brand loyalty and stay relevant in a competitive market. An up-to-date GDS solution dramatically increases the efficiency of the booking process, ensuring a more satisfying customer experience. Immediate access to a rich source of content also enables agents to book bespoke travel solutions that add value to every trip and keep the customer happy.

3. Updates

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a GDS is its ability to implement updates without disrupting the workflow. Most current GDS versions will implement updates automatically, safeguarding the user from revenue lost due to downtime.

Workflow updates


In a competitive landscape made up of offline and online players, those who stand out and succeed are the ones who provide the best end-to-end booking experience. Unlocking all the capabilities an up-to-date GDS has to offer has the power to transform agent-customer relationships. It provides agents with opportunities to increase revenue per trip through the upsell of higher value air ancillaries as well as hotel and car products and services. Time spent on third-party content searches and cross-checks is eliminated, enabling agents to focus on providing a bespoke service to each customer, increasing the chances of repeat business.

Learn more about how to unlock the potential of your GDS in our eBook.