Confused by what a hotel global distribution system is or does? Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about GDS.
What is a Global Distribution System?
Put simply, a global distribution system (or GDS) is a network that links the four vital sectors of the travel industry: airline reservations, car rentals, hotel reservations, and destination activities. It facilitates automated transactions between vendors (airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, attraction tickets), travel agents that subscribe to the service, and the average travel consumer.
When a travel agent books a reservation for a client, they’re using the GDS. So is the customer who books reservations himself or herself through a site like Kayak or Travelocity.
Like the Internet itself, there is no one company that runs the global distribution system. It doesn’t manage a hotel’s room inventory – the hotel retains control of that. Rather, it’s a real-time network of linked databases that routes user requests for information to the right place.
Similar to how a user gains access to the Internet through a vendor like a phone or cable company, vendors gain access to the GDS through providers like Travelport, Sabre, and Amadeus.
How does a global distribution system differ from a central reservations system (CRS)?
A central reservation system (CRS) is a system used by individual vendors (hotels, airlines, etc.) to book their own reservations and manage their own inventory. There can be as many CRSs as there are vendors, all using packaged or customized software. The customer interacts directly with the hotel via Internet or phone to book a room.
The GDS lets a customer (travel agent or consumer) search and compare prices, features, and amenities among several hotels, then select and book their stay at the hotel they choose. There often isn’t any direct contact with the hotel itself. Services like Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity are the portal most consumers use to access these databases.
How does a hotel get into the GDS?
A hotel hooks its room inventory database into the GDS through a portal like Travelport, Amadeus, or Sabre (there are a growing number of portals out there; these are just some of the most well-known). Hotels will pay these portals a fee to facilitate access, not unlike how a private Internet user contracts with an Internet service provider (ISP) to gain access to the web.
As with any business transaction, it’s a good idea to do your research before selecting a portal. Different providers may have access to different types of travel-related databases, so make sure you go with one that specializes in hotels and their needs!
Does my hotel have to have a CRS to get into the GDS?
Not necessarily. A hotel that uses a central reservations system can indeed connect its system to the GDS. Hotels that don’t have a CRS can use a portal service to get listed.
How can the GDS help me stretch my hotel’s marketing dollars?
The global distribution system can help level the playing field between smaller, independently operated hotels and the “big boys” with bottomless marketing budgets. For example, a customer who googles hotels near a major event venue will see what Google wants them to see (Read some of our previous articles on hotel SEO).
On the other hand, the customer who goes onto a booking site like Expedia to search for a room is more likely to spot your hotel, because your two-double-bed rooms will be listed right along with the big chains’ two-double-bed rooms.
Does participating in the GDS mean I lose control of my hotel’s room inventory?
Absolutely not! Whether you connect your CRS to the GDS or work with a provider to get listed, you’re in control of inventory and pricing. It’ll integrate seamlessly into your overall yield management strategy.
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