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Getting the most out of CRS and GDS

Hotel & Motel Management May 5, 1997

There was a time when individuals made lodging reservations by writing a letter or sending a telegram.  Then they waited days or weeks for the hotel's response.  With the widespread implementation of computer technology in the travel industry, that slow-paced, leisurely process has changed dramatically for the traveler and for the hotelier.

Today, through their travel agents, travelers have instant access to hotel information and immediate confirmations.  For the hotelier, effective product presentation in electronic channels -- using the right verbiage, offering the right rates and indicating accurate availability -- has become a top priority.

With an estimated 60 million roomnights booked through global distribution systems in 1996, according to the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Assn., effective salesmanship in the GDSs is essential.

The industry's four major global-distribution systems supply more than 90 percent of the 455,000 GDS terminals is use by travel agents.  In addition, these systems (Amadeus and System One Amadeus, Apollo/Galileo, SABRE and Worldspan) are increasingly the data source for individuals seeking and booking accommodation on the Internet.

Hotel rate, availability and descriptive information in the GDS is entered and maintained by the staff who run hotel company central reservation systems.  Whether a management contract, a franchise arrangement or a hotel representation company is used, a central reservation system is operated to support reservation agents answering toll-free lines and to provide data to the GDSs.

The database in that CRS is the information shown in each of the GDSs.

Maintenance of the CRS database is frequently considered a corporate responsibility.  It is one of the more important services for which a hotel owner pays a management or franchise fee.

Reality is rarely so simple, however.  The reality for every hotelier, especially for those in a franchise situation, is that direct participation in the electronic distribution process is advisable and worthwhile.  The greater the participation by the hotelier, the higher the GDS production for the property.

About Availability

Some of the most appealing room types and packages a hotel offers are never listed in the CRS and, therefore, in the GDS.  This results from the lack of capacity in the past of reservation systems to hold the full product range.  That situation has changed, and today it is imperative that your staff offer a full product range.

It is also essential that availability information be communicated to the CRS up-to-the-minute.  This is likely occurring if an automated computer interface is in place between your hotel's property management system and the CRS.  If the update process is done manually, through information entry by your staff into a CRS property terminal, or by fax to the franchise or management organization, the possibility of delays and errors is greater.

When the process is not automated (and sometimes even when a CRS/PMS interface is in place), the sale of rooms is prone to premature cutoff.  Rather than allowing the CRS and the GDS to sell down to the last two or three rooms (or even the very last) available rooms, "close" instructions are sometimes issues when five or more rooms are still available, blocking the sale of those remaining rooms at generally higher-than-average rates.

The listing of all rates offered at your property is also essential.  GDS and CRS production will be maximized when the full spectrum of rates, including promotional and negotiated rates, are available in the electronic channels.  Loading of a range of rates offers the opportunity to practice revenue management to maximize RevPAR.  This is accomplished by establishing demand well in advance and limiting the rates offered in anticipated high demand periods, as well as by imposing minimum lengths of stay or requiring guarantees or deposits.

Just as brochure or directory listings are basic descriptive tools in the world of printed promotion, the property description is the basic sales tool in electronic distribution channels.  Just as you would review a directory listing or brochure copy prior to printing, you need to periodically review property descriptions that are shown in the CRS and GDS.

Travel agents refer to property descriptions to answer client questions, to determine if a hotel meets a client's needs and to differentiate between competing hotels with available rooms.  The information you display in your property description must convince them immediately of the advantages of your hotel over your competitors.  An easy way to affect the needs of travel agents when composing or reviewing property information is to focus on the 3Cs -- correct, clear and compelling.

First, the information displayed must be correct.  These agents quickly dismiss hotels whose descriptions raise more questions than they answer, or whose information is contradicted upon the guest's arrival.  Second, they want clear descriptions that will quickly provide them with necessary information.  Finally, they respond to information that is compelling -- that sells your property and shows its competitive advantage.

At least once a year, review the information contained in your CRS and the GDSs.  Copies of this material may be obtained from your corporate office, usually by contacting the marketing automation director.  Request a printout and review it carefully to see that it meets the 3Cs.  Have others at your property review it as well to insure that the information is accurate and sales oriented.

Remember, too, that GDSs serve an international audience.  Keep the words simple and the ideas easy to understand.

GDSs offer a selection of supplementary promotional opportunities.  Among them are the use of free electronic bulletin boards to inform travel agents and other users of new promotions and special offers.  These messages, which use the brief two or three line format, are displayed for a few days at a time.

Additionally, you may purchase agent sign-in messages and availability screen headlines.  These messages, which also use the brief two or three line format, can be either systemwide or targeted to a geographic region that may be of particular importance to your hotel.

Here are five ideas to consider:

  • Identify and establish contact with the marketing automation manage at your corporate office.  He or she is the individual responsible for listing your chain's hotels in the GDSs.  They know the opportunities, and can evaluate them for you, recommending the most suitable for your consideration.  Additionally, use your regional marketing representative to research and recommend electronic distribution promotional opportunities.
  • Designate one person at the property to "own" the information in the CRS and the GDS.  Have them be your liaison to the marketing automation staff member at corporate office, taking responsibility for submission and revision of updates, questionnaires, etc., and tracking monthly CRS/GDS production.
  • Check how availability updates are currently communicated to the CRS.  Verify that the information that you think, and want, is arriving there in a timely fashion.
  • Periodically review all data about your property in both the CRS and the GDS.  The marketing automation contact can collect these printouts for your examination.
  • Obtain and use the marketing automation educational and training materials produced by HEDNA.