What is a GDS (Global Distribution System)?

What is a GDS (Global Distribution System)?

2020, Apr 15    

In this era of globalisation and automation, traveling has become an essential part of life. Back in the day, traveling was seen as a luxury for the elites and a necessity for global traders. But today, the concept of traveling falls under a completely different classification.

Nowadays people look forward to traveling as a way of relief from the daily hectic chores and schedules; and why shouldn’t they? After all, moving about internationally has become easier than ever. This increase in traveling has also ramped up various industries and raised opportunities for new businesses. In this case, the tourism and aviation industry are definitely the ones to top the list.

However, the travel industry as we see it is not only limited to tourism and aviation. There are numerous small and large industries and businesses that are working round the clock to support this practice. Moreover, the rapid advancement in technology and digitisation of economies and procedures has catalysed this system to become a more efficient one. The Global Distribution System or GDS is one such digital mechanism that has driven this industry to become a faster and more efficient one.

What Is GDS?

GDS is an acronym for the Global Distribution System. It is a highly sophisticated system interconnecting the agencies and service providers that are involved in executing international travel by facilitating their transactions. Running the travel industry requires lots of effort and contribution from various mediums and GDS tactfully provides them with an extensive platform to interact and handle transactions effectively. It is usable by both online and physical travel agents.

The work of an agent, in this case, is not simple. They have to overlook many fields and components that are involved in facilitating travel such as, reviewing information, comparing prices and schedules, and conducting purchases and handling transactions from several different vendors. This is all to ensure that the end customer, upon completing all the formalities, has a seamless experience before traveling.

What’s really special about the technology is the fact that the Global Distribution System works as a major conduit between travel agencies and travel accommodation vendors, creating a worldwide network within the travel industry, providing an opportunity to unite under one online platform. You can see how the breakthrough of such an innovation helped revolutionise the travel industry.

A Brief Look Into The History GDS

As it does with all other efficient systems, the concept of GDS too started its journey by realising there was a need for smart travel technology. Before the innovation of GDS, reservation systems in the aviation industry consisted of manual labor and tardy processes. Fortunately in 1960, the first of its kind was created when American Airlines realised they needed to speed up the process.

In a collaboration between American Airlines and IBM, Sabre GDS, or the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment was developed. At first, the purpose was to create an automated version of the airline’s internal reservation system. Following its vast acceptance and the hike in productivity this brought about, it soon prompted the creation of many more GDS.

These Global Distribution Systems catered to many different airlines or airline groups serving many purposes such as car rentals, cruise tours, hotel and train bookings, and other essential travel services. Forward to the 1970s, many more airline companies were making good use of this newly identified system.

Since the revolution of GDS, its popularity and worldwide usage skyrocketed as travel agencies started to see the various benefits they offered. In the instance of Global Distribution Systems, each agency caters to a group of vendors of its own who can avail of the services provided by them.

Some Global Distribution Systems have made a brand name of their own leaving a lingering mark in this industry. The most notable ones include Sabre GDS. Sabre GDS being the first mover has a host of prevalent airlines including American Airlines, JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, and China Air among many others. It also boasts a clientele of top-notch hotels.

Amadeus GDS is another highly popular GDS that started as a joint venture between Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa, and SAS in the late 1980s. This particular Global Distribution System caters to British Airways, Southwest, Qantas, and Lufthansa among many others.

The third leading GDS in the sector is Travelport, which is the majority owner of Galileo, Apollo, and Worldspan GDS. The wake of Global Distribution Systems has truly altered the travel landscape and widened our perspective on the way we book hotels and flights.

What Are The Roles Of A GDS?

Albeit their late discovery, Global Distribution Systems have been engraved into everyday transactions of travel agencies, so much that it is now near impossible to envisage conducting trade within the aviation and tourism industry without them. Although it would not be impossible to do so, it would definitely lack efficiency and bring down productivity.  

The main role of a GDS is to provide necessary information to airlines that they require to function. These include information regarding flights, accommodation, and other travel-related services. The information is delivered in real-time maintaining a quick and speedy inflow of information.  

Not to mention, they also provide data based on real inventory. This is an extremely important factor as users can always access accurate information with current data. This extends to the number of airline seats available, the number of car rentals available, and the hotels that are available or how many of their rooms vacant, etc. This way, airline companies can serve their clients giving them the best suggestions for accommodation suiting their personal needs.  

Other than that, the widespread reach of Global Distribution Systems has enabled them to surpass the basic services they started with initially, such as flight bookings. Now, Global Distribution Systems actively assist in hotel bookings, transportation bookings, showing price comparisons, and more. In this way, it is possible for people to do all the necessary tasks under one platform, rather than foraging around several platforms to get the job done, mostly without any luck.

While most physical GDS are conducting these activities, online systems are slightly different in their offerings. Online Travel Agencies, also termed as OTAs work more as a medium or connector. In essence, this means that the online platforms are not independently Global Distribution Systems, but rather they will act as the medium to connect to you with one.  

For instance, upon searching for GDS on reliable OTA platforms such as Expedia, you will receive links that will take you to the landing page of actual GDS such as Sabre GDS, or Amadeus GDS.

Benefits Of Using GDS:

Needless to say, Global Distribution Systems provides a number of benefits to both, airline companies and individual travelers. Some of the most prominent ones are:

  1. Saving time: Without the existence of GDS, travelers would be required to visit several websites in order to prepare for a trip. While going on a trip can be hectic on its own, this procedure just adds more to the list of time-consuming activities. Luckily with the availability of GDS, these thoughts can be brushed aside as the system enables them to acquire all relevant information under a single platform.

  2. Accuracy of information: Global Distribution Systems have created a seamless and efficient way to provide information that is reliable and accurate. It uses real-time data and real inventory. This means that data is updated very frequently so that searchers are able to receive the latest information regarding bookings and reservations.

  3. Saving Money: In the case of airline companies or heavy travelers, money can be saved by buying slots in bulk. Although this practice is changing, it may still apply for transportation and hotel bookings.

Dependency On Global Distribution Systems

It seems as if the airline industry and Global Distribution System have become intertwined with each other and coexist with each other’s support. Although this has been practiced for more than half a century now, their paths may differ in the future.  

Quite recently, many airline companies started taking new initiatives, turning towards using their own systems rather than using a third party to serve their customers. This is beneficial for the airline industry as it provides better control, freedom, better understanding of market needs, and saving up on costs. It also shortens the communication channel with the customer with the provision of a direct way.

To promote their popularity, some prominent airlines in the aviation industry have also started charging higher prices for airline tickets that are booked through a GDS so that customers are lured to use their own systems.  

What Is The Future Of GDS?

With time this industry has seen an influx of other specific travel-related services such as hotel booking websites, price comparison sites, and sites providing reviews and rates. Therefore, GDS may have completed their tenure with respect to airline companies. However, even if car rental services were introduced as a subsidiary business later in time, they seem much more lucrative now.

As with every technology, there are new solutions introduced to evolve with time. It looks like GDS too is expanding its services to a wider range, and is likely to keep on progressing even if some of its services are falling out use.