Business travel is an advancing, multi-faceted, and frankly, a pretty complicated industry. That’s why we’ll be breaking down some of the most confusing issues, terms, or functions within the industry in our definition blog series. We’ll identify specific business travel terms and explore its importance for companies, both big and small. We’ll also examine important tips or pain points to consider in your business travel management program. To start off, we will define the ‘GDS’ and how it is used in the business travel industry.
What is the GDS?
Called the Global Distribution System, or GDS for short, it is essentially the brain of the travel industry. A computerized network system, it provides real-time information to companies; including airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and travel agencies. Each of these industries use the GDS to see real-time inventory of other services in the travel industry. For example, a travel agency can find the number of hotel rooms available, number of flight seats available or cars available on behalf of a client. One distinction is that the GDS is not a reservation system, but instead provides the information and a link to the services.
How do TMCs use the GDS?
Travel management companies use GDS systems to locate the best airline ticket, car rental, hotel room, etc., for their clients. They can customize information based on the traveler’s preferences, itinerary, etc. To further complicate things, there are different types of GDS systems available such as Worldspan, Sabre, or Galileo.
When a traveler requests travel from a travel agent, or travel management company, the agent will access the GDS to find the most accurate and cost effective itinerary for their traveler. The TMC is charged each time they access the GDS, but this is typically waved to the client. There is no way for the average person to access the GDS without help through a travel agency or other vendor.
How do online travel sites use the GDS?
Here’s the thing, they regularly don’t! Have you ever found an out-of-this-world low price on a ticket while using an online travel site? But when you get to the final booking page, the ticket is ‘suddenly’ gone? You have every right to be annoyed, because it likely wasn’t available when you found it in the first place! Due to the cost of accessing the GDS, most online travel sites only look for prices once a day. Through a process called ‘screen scraping’, they take inventory of prices and seats available at one time and continually use that information until the next time they access the GDS. That means that most of their inventory is immediately out of date and typically more expensive.
Anything else I should know?
As with anything in life, there are a few quirks. For example, Southwest Airlines does not work with the GDS company, WorldSpan. Agents who use WorldSpan either do not book with Southwest or must look for pricing directly with Southwest Airlines. Something else that is newsworthy, is the content agreement in which airlines sign to work with GDSs, is up for renewal. Many in the industry are wondering if airlines will be renewing their relationship with certain GDSs. And if not, what does that mean for booking air for the travel agents and their clients?
We hope you learned something new about the business travel industry today. Check back as we dismantle the confusing world of business travel management in the next blog of our definition series. Christopherson Business Travel is an award-winning corporate travel management company. We’ve spent the last 60 years developing our unique approach to integrated technology and dedicated support. Learn more about us and our travel management services on our contact page.