Global Distribution System
A Global Distribution System (GDS) is a network operated by a company that enables automated transactions between third parties and booking agents in order to provide travel-related services to the end consumers. A GDS can link services, rates and bookings consolidating products and services across all three travel sectors: i.e., airline reservations, hotel reservations, car rentals, and activities.
GDS is different from a computer reservations system, which is a reservation system used by the respective vendors. Primary customers of GDS are travel agents (both online and office-based) to make reservation on various reservations systems run by the vendors. GDS holds no inventory; the inventory is held on the vendor's reservation system itself. A GDS system will have real-time link to the vendor's database. For example, when a travel agency requests a reservation on the service of a particular airline, the GDS system routes the request to the appropriate airline computer reservations system. This enables a travel agent with a connection to a single GDS to choose and book various flights, hotels, activities and associated services on all the vendors in the world who are part of that GDS.
End-user reservation portals run by GDS companies
The table below lists the various portals run by GDS companies. A customer can view their reservations held in the GDS's own database or using the airline's booking system itself. If a reservation is made through a GDS, there are usually two reservation references: one is called a GDS locator code and the other the actual reservation or PNR number.
|Portal Name||GDS Company||URL link||Sector|
|ViewTrip||Travelport (includes Galileo, Worldspan & Apollo)||https://www.viewtrip.com/||Airline|
|Check My Trip||Amadeus||https://www.checkmytrip.com/||Airline|
Future of GDS Systems & companies
GDS in the travel industry originated from a traditional legacy business model that existed to inter-operate between airline vendors during the early days of computerised reservations systems of the 1950s. Most airline vendors (including budget and mainstream operators) have now adopted a strategy of 'direct selling' to their wholesale and retail customers (passengers) by investing in their own reservations and direct-distribution systems. Hence significant technology advancements in this space facilitate an easier way to cross-sell to partner airlines and via travel agents, eliminating the dependency on a dedicated global GDS federating between systems. Hence some experts argue that these change in business models will eventually lead to phasing out of GDS in the Airline space by the year 2020.
However, hotels and car rental industry continue to benefit from GDS, especially last-minute inventory disposal using GDS to bring additional operational revenue. GDS here is useful to facilitate global reach using existing network and low marginal costs when compared to online air travel bookings. Some GDS companies are also in the process of investing and establishing significant offshore capability in a move to reduce costs and improve their profit margins to serve their customer directly accommodating changing business models.