GDSs are increasingly partnering with some of the world’s largest hotel aggregators to expand travel agents’ access to the inventory of independent hotels.
What this means for North American GDS subscribers is not only increased access to non-chain hotel inventory but also a simpler way to comparison shop.
The lack of access to independent hotel inventory has long been a weakness among the GDSs, one that they have taken steps to remedy over the years.
In January, Amadeus and Germany’s Hotel Reservation Service (HRS) made a deal that will add 250,000 hotels to Amadeus’ distribution system, including more than 50,000 independent hotels previously not available through any GDS.
Francisco Perez-Lozao, Amadeus’ senior vice president for new businesses, said the agreement “marks a milestone in our multisource strategy to bring new levels of efficiency to the fragmented hotel distribution space.”
The partnership will enable agents to shop hotels from both the GDS and HRS on a single screen.
“Travel bookers, whether leisure or business specialists, typically search between two and five hotel channels to compare rates and offers — often for the same hotel — before making a booking,” said Hugo Ehrnreich, head of hotel distribution for Amadeus. “Often these channels are the websites of so-called hotel aggregators or wholesalers. This multichannel search and comparison implies inefficient and labor-intensive processes.”
Amadeus’ Hotels Multisource initiative integrates the content of preferred hotel aggregators to Amadeus point-of-sale solutions such as Amadeus Hotels Plus and Amadeus e-Travel Management.
Ehrnreich said the integration of such hotel content in the GDS delivers efficiencies to both leisure and business travel consultants.
“For a large [travel management company], for example, this cuts by up to almost 50% the time it takes to complete the booking process,” he said. “The integration also brings efficiencies throughout agency mid- and back-office processes with additional benefits in terms of customer information, tracking and reporting.”
Amadeus distributes approximately 100,000 hotels, with the overwhelming majority belonging to chains, but beginning in April it will also aggregate hotel inventory and rates from the 250,000 properties distributed by HRS via an application-programming interface.
Sabre and Travelport have also added content to increase their independent hotel offerings.
Late last year, Travelport introduced a product called Travelport Rooms and More, which distributes its aggregated hotel content and will be added to Travelport’s Universal Desktop.
Travelport said it works with dozens of aggregators, including Expedia and Priceline's Booking.com subsidiary.
“Rooms and More is a good example of a change of approach that can solve a business problem that has been around many years,” said Gillian Gibson, Travelport’s chief marketing officer. “Every customer has wanted more hotel content, and every GDS has wanted to provide it.”
Gibson said independent hotel content has been an area of opportunity; there are 95,000 properties available in the GDS, but they represent only 14% of the world’s properties and only 46% of hotel bookings.
“It’s been difficult to get that content and bring it into a GDS world,” Gibson said.
To do so, Rooms and More uses different technology than traditional GDSs use and a program that captures content for smaller properties in a way that’s efficient for them.
In a live demonstration of Rooms and More in January at Travelport’s Atlanta headquarters, Travelport’s programmers said that 30 aggregators and OTAs had signed up to take part in Rooms and More.
So far, 6,000 travel agents in 68 countries have signed up for Rooms and More, which its programmers said is an evolving product that is continuing to grow.
Keith Harrison, global head of hospitality sales for Travelport, said that Rooms and More offers users a “spectrum of alternatives,” with the ability to shop on one screen to compare rates, popularity and even the best commissions.
A single screen displays the price and commission rate for one hotel from several aggregators.
“Imagine how much time they save by not having to go to multiple websites,” Harrison said. “It gives them complete confidence that they understand what’s in the market.”
Sabre aggregates hotel inventory from Travel Pool, Boscolo and Hotels.de and said it will add DerbySoft and Best Day by the end of this year.
John Carlile, Sabre’s director of product marketing for hotel, tour, cruise and rail, said the GDS has been working to add more partners over the last two to three years.
“When Sabre adds an aggregator, we add them just like we’d add another CRS [central reservation system],” Carlile said.
He explained that Sabre connects through the CRS, and the hotel loads the rates and availability into the GDS so that its inventory can be shopped and booked in Sabre like any other content.
“One of the big benefits of integrating content that way is that it makes it available in agents’ current workflow,” Carlile said. “When a booking is made, it results in a live segment, and it’s real-time availability and rates. The rate the agent sees is the rate they can sell when they book. That’s not always the case.”
As for how much demand for independent hotel inventory GDSs are seeing from their subscribers, the level varies.
“We have seen agents’ interest in this content, but I don’t know that it’s an overwhelming demand,” Carlile said. “We continue to seek input from agencies for the content they need and want. We are adding content because these are hotels that we think will be useful for them.”
Carlile said the level of demand is regional, adding that in the U.S. most hotels are affiliated with a chain and there is less demand for independent properties.
In Europe and other parts of the world, however, there is more demand because so many hotels are independent brands.
“The more we can do to get the right bookable content, the better,” he said.
Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.
Correction: Booking.com is a Priceline subsidiary.