Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: June 29, 2005

THE UPSTART ALTERNATIVE GDSs have made a lot of noise about taking costs out of the distribution equation because of their use of new technologies, but at least one of the companies, G2 SwitchWorks, is allying itself with a champion of mainframe systems, EDS. Alex Zoghlin, the CEO of G2, told TravelWeekly.com that his company is working with EDS on facilitating connectivity to Continental and America West because these two carriers use EDS' Shared Airlines Reservations System (SHARES), a mainframe-powered ticketing database. All of the airlines' reservations systems are based on mainframes, Zoghlin noted, and G2 is using several companies, including EDS and Navitaire, with the latter deploying an XML interface for direct connects to six major airlines, for the hook-up. "We're not anti-existing technology," Zoghlin said. "Everybody has to use legacy systems because all of the carriers' systems are based on mainframes. We'll use what's easier for the airlines." Zoghlin said G2 hasn't signed a contract with EDS, but an agreement is under consideration.

RAIL EUROPE GROUP introduced a point-to-point rail ticket-booking engine for travel agents that features live availability from European and U.K. trains at its agent Web site at http://www.agent.raileurope.com. The company rolled out a consumer version of the tool, which is in use at sites like Travelocity.com and Frommers.com, several weeks ago. Dispensing with a timetable-based booking engine previously used by Rail Europe Group companies Rail Europe and DER, as well as other North American distributors, the new booking engine mimics airline-booking engines, showing "available trains at available fares," according to the company. "Because we give agents access to live inventory on the revamped site, this streamlines the booking process, eliminating the need to go back to their client when the schedule they requested is not available," said Fabrice Morel, president and CEO of Rail Europe Group, in a statement. New functionality includes side-by-side comparisons of first- and second-class fares, the ability to book pass-holder fares and immediate confirmation of ticket purchase and seat reservations.

AMADEUS will join Sabre in giving hotels the ability to pay for positions in GDS displays. Like Sabre Spotlight, which was launched last summer, Amadeus Instant Preference is being rolled out in partnership with TravelClick, the Chicago-based hotel marketer. The TravelClick sales force is out pitching hotels to pay for the top position in Amadeus general availability hotel displays as a way for properties to drive sales. When a hotel pays for the top slot, though, it will not be labeled as an advertisement. From here, it seems like all of this hotel advertising in GDS displays is an opening act for preferencing flight displays, as well.

OUTTASK established a direct connection with JetBlue, meaning corporations using Outtask's Cliqbook booking solution will save more than 40% in transaction fees when they book the low-cost carrier. In addition to access to JetBlue fares and availability, the direct connection comes with change fees of $25, and supports corporate and ghost cards. Cliqbook also features a direct connection with AirTran.

IN A THINLY VEILED ATTEMPT to better manage the guest experience, Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., installed the Gaylord iConnect computing system, which uses "thin technology" in all of its 1,406 guest rooms. Instead of guests browsing the Internet through their TVs, the Gaylord Palms' rooms come equipped with a PC, modem, keypad and mouse. The PCs use thin technology in that they have no CPUs [the central processing units that are the brains of most PCs] and the application is controlled from a central server. The technology is virus resistant and secure, according to Gaylord Entertainment, the parent company. For guests, iConnect enables them to do things like browse the Web without a laptop, order towels and room service, or use a GPS-mapping system to plot out excursions. And, meeting planners can use iConnect to brand messages in guest rooms, fulfill sponsorship obligations or present virtual trade shows, the company said.

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