What is a GDS?
Within the travel industry, most people can answer that question. But on Capitol Hill, it’s unlikely that lawmakers or their staff are familiar with what has long been the backbone of travel distribution.
The Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) in November attempted to close that knowledge gap with a campaign highlighting the role GDSs play in the travel ecosystem.
The association launched a webpage explaining the GDS role within travel and held a legislative fly-in with representatives from Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport in Washington, connecting executives with policymakers. Ads concurrently ran in Politico’s Morning Transportation newsletter.
GDS education is one piece in Travel Tech’s larger goal of attaining public policy that supports the travel industry, said Travel Tech CEO Laura Chadwick.
“We’re excited at this event, and in our membership, to bring in companies who have not traditionally been involved in our advocacy to help tell this story about how complex our industry is and how technology can help,” Chadwick said. “And how much innovation that’s happening in this space with AI and other innovations to support the whole travel ecosystem.”
To explain a GDS, Travel Tech created a graphic depicting airlines, hotels and car rental companies streamlining offerings through a single entity — a GDS — which in turn is accessed by travel advisors (and travelers themselves when they book air at an OTA).
The reception was positive, Chadwick said. Many consumers are familiar with OTAs, which present a variety of travel options in a way that’s easily digestible, but they are unfamiliar with how OTAs access that information.
“I think people were really surprised, and there was a moment when they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, how would you do that?'” she said. “‘How would you know that there’s a flight that goes from Belfast to Brussels on a Tuesday afternoon and has two seats available for me and my buddy?'”
A byproduct of the initiative is highlighting companies like the three major GDSs and sharing their value with consumers who aren’t usually exposed to them.
According to ASTA, Travel Tech’s GDS campaign stands to have positive effects beyond the priorities of the association and its members.
“Any time we educate policymakers, the general public, whoever it may be on the intricacies of our travel ecosystem, it’s a good thing,” said Jessica Klement, ASTA’s vice president of advocacy.
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