GDS: Corporate Travel POS Landscape

In a previous article, we we talked about the latest evolution of the travel agent desktops. We went through the different business moves of travel technology providers.

We also analyzed the role of TMCs, underlining their need to improve internal processes and service quality as well as their interest in reducing dependence from GDSs.

We concluded with “It is now up to travel management companies to implement the best technological solutions to satisfy their customers’ needs”. So now let’s move on to the travel agent point of sale landscape and see what it has to offer.

Key features of GDSs Travel POS:

  • Configurable workflows: The “one size fits all” times are over, it’s now time for optimized workflows to fit the agencies’ exact needs. Agencies benefit of greater control over their selling process by choosing what features would serve best clients and how agents can do more in less time.
  • Ancillaries: All of the three main GDSs brought ancillary services to their offering. Desktops can now display sell fee-based seats and/or baggage allowance and other extras, which is a great thing since it supports airlines’ new sales campaigns. Not so sure if this still supports airlines differentiation strategies. Do all carriers have to pick services in the same panel “carry-on baggage, meals, on-board entertainment, internet connections, pillows, blankets” or can they ask for tailored solutions?
  • Policy/Rule Management: Corporate travel policies are now integrated through rule engines that make it possible to show each corporate profile at the point-of-sale.
  • Content: According to Michael Strauss, CEO of PASS Consulting Corporation, “The strategy in the business sector, i.e., that of TMCs, consists of integrating all the content of various global distribution systems, low-cost carriers, etc. and controlling the travel market online as well as offline.” While Sabres does not market Red Workspace as multi source, Travelport and Amadeus both claim to provide access to multi source travel content.
  • Interface: The new generations of travel agent desktops integrate all the content in a single, intuitive and graphical interface enabling users to work more efficiently. Ideally agents don’t have to tap into different sources and can focus on provide a better service. With multi source content combined in a unique interface, travel technology providers are enabling travel agents to turn into travel consultant – who are no longer required to excel in the use of cryptic commands but who are able to share travel expertise and knowledge to advise the client on the best way to travel from A to B.

Behind the scenes:

Two out three main GDSs market their offer as a multi source solution. Travelport promotes a Multi source content including “own sourced content, web content, supplier-direct connections, low-cost carriers, rail operators and global content from Travelport”. Considering that Travelport furnishes both Apollo and Worldspan GDS it could mean that Universal Desktop is a multi Travelport GDS platform.

Amadeus goes one step further and is the only one offering a desktop with the ability to work with any GDS solution – its brochures promotes a “Multi-GDS scripting engine” , “Multi-GDS flexible agent airflow”.

Battle for market share of US travel agencies – Amadeus vs. Travelport

According to the TNOOZ figures, with 31.5%, Sabre had the highest U.S. market share in 2009 among the four GDSs. As a market leader it has no interest in opening its content to the other GDSs.

As for Amadeus, although it is the largest GDS company in the world, its North American share is the smallest of all GDSs. Travelport is facing hard competition from Amadeus who increased its market share from 17.8% to 26.8% in 2009. During the same period, Travelport’s Apollo lost 9.9% of market share to 22% and Travelport’s Worldspan is in 4th position with 19.1% share.

So why is Amadeus the only GDS to promote multi GDS solution? It is interesting to see that it is specifically designed for the North American business travel- understand here that they are no multi GDS in Europe. One could think that as Amadeus is leader in Europe it has no interest to open its content over there, however since it has the smallest market share in North America it has a lot to win by tapping into competitors’ market shares.

How can TMC benefit from multi-GDS platforms?

Multi-GDS platforms allow users to go with the best service/price for exactly their needs with the side effect of enhancing competition between travel suppliers. It also empowers TMCs to leverage their negotiation power with the main distribution systems. Switching from one GDS to another can be painful; shifting segments to whichever best offer from GDSs is a lot easier. Corporations, also benefit as it gives them a greater control by deciding by themselves what GDS they want to go with rather than letting TMCs decide and on a global scale they need to go multi-GDS anyway as Michael Strauss highlights in his book in chapter 4.4.

Even though GDSs desktops have significantly improved, there’s still a little bit of work to do. Amadeus One showed to be difficult to implement, and Travelport seems struggling in creating a single interface for its own GDSs. Innovative third-party technology providers such as PASS Consulting Corporation (PASS) released new POS desktops that combine the benefits of GDS’ desktops (single point of sale, customization, GUI) and multi-GDS connection.

With around a decade of experience in POS desktops, PASS’ second generation of the Virtual Travel Organizer (VTO2G) is built on the XX/1 Multi-GDS platform that integrates direct providers, low-cost airlines, and proprietary product databases – such as hotel information. PASS is an authorized developer by all of the three main GDSs, which is a valuable asset for the use of the XX/1, and enables its clients to pick the best segments from each GDS. The XX/1 transaction server integrates all source systems and translates them into one unified XML. PASS was the first to introduce XML to the travel industry back in 1999. Today the schemas are the ones Open Axis group uses – “donated by Farelogix” who licensed source code from PASS.

PASS knows that each client of TMCs has its own requirements and workflows, therefore sees each desktop as an individual product. The VTO 2G is much more robust and flexible than its first version, based on among many other features of:

  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA):An approach that promotes integrated and reusable processes or services. The PASS Virtual Software Factory generates most of your application. Manual programming is reduced to less than 10%.
  • Sophisticated Open Source Rules Engines:The highly configurable rule engine is able to be customized according to clients policies and will leave no desired unfulfilled. What is more, next to the VTO 2G, PASS completes its offer with an Internet Booking Engine (IBE) and the PASS Corporate IBE. All of these front ends are backed by the XX/1 Multi-GDS platform. The PASS Rule Engine controls all front ends in one place which means that the application is flexible and allows high adaptability without involving further developer’s intervention: if any corporate policy changes it will be applied to all sales channels immediately.

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