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Seamless - The New GDS Connectivity Standard

H & A Report, Volume III, Issue 5 January/February 1996   

  GDSs -- Global Distribution Systems -- now contribute over 30% of centrally-booked reservations at many hotel chains, and over 70% of central bookings to some upscale hotel properties. They constitute a major distribution channel, having shown consistent double-digit booking volume growth over the past five years.

Their emergence as a primary booking mechanism has occurred for several reasons, not the least of which being the cooperative efforts by hoteliers and GDS operators to make them more effective for the promotion, and booking, of hotel accommodation.

The latest, and arguably most significant advance in the past several years has been the implementation of Seamless Connectivity -- sometimes referred to as Seamless Access -- between hotel company central reservation systems (CRS) and GDSs.

To appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity presented by seamless connectivity, a brief background review is useful.

Travel agents at their GDS terminals, and increasingly individual travelers using their PCs to directly access GDS displays, evaluate lodging choices and other travel options on the basis of availability, rate and features. The last of these three is particularly important to the hotel industry, where we seek to differentiate our properties, and communicate their value, with words rather than rates.

Prior to implementation of seamless connectivity by global distribution systems, descriptions of room types, of rates which included extra amenities (such as an in-room work area or a complimentary breakfast) or the details of a full-featured package, were difficult, if not impossible, to adequately describe.

GDSs, designed to sell air seats, lacked the capacity to store extensive descriptions. When adding hotel information to those data bases, every hotel chain’s GDS maintenance staff had to simplify, abbreviate and truncate descriptions, often to the point where product differentiation was sacrificed.

In comparison with GDS data bases, hotel chain CRS data bases, specifically engineered to accommodate extensive product detail, emerged as the model for property information storage. Over time, technology planners in both hotel companies and global distribution systems concluded that expansion of GDS data bases to accommodate complete hotel data would be impractical. Efforts to tap into the hotel CRS data bases were begun.

In the spring of 1993 Galileo International and Radisson Hotels, working with WizCom International, the GDS/CRS switch provider, activated Inside Availability and seamless connectivity became a reality.

With seamless connectivity, room type data (descriptions, rates and availability) as well as package information, could now be drawn immediately and automatically from the data banks of Radisson’s CRS, PIERRE. This step forward was huge, as the following example comparing a Type A room type description with an Apollo Inside Availability description demonstrates.

Example:

Pre-Seamless room type description (data drawn from GDS data base):

DENVER INTL ARPT CO 20FEB-21FEB 1NT 1ADULT MI3
 HY REGENCY DENVER $ 6 C 1750 WELTON STREET 22SW L
USD A1K-170.00 A2D-170.00 BUS-185.00 CLB-195.00 COR 160.00 SEN 128.00 GOV 68.87 TVL 80.00N

Inside Availability room type description (data drawn from Hotel CRS data base):

**HOC INSIDE AVAILABILITY** WELCOME TO HYATT.....COME ON IN

REF USD RATE HY 09962 REGENCY DENVER 
1 185.00 RACK/CORPORATE REGENCY CLUB
DLUX RM W/KING OR 2 DBL BEDS ON 25TH FLOOR W/MOUNTAIN OR CITY VIEWS CONTL BRKFST MON-FRI
2 160.00 RACK/CORPORATE HYATT GUEST ROOM SUPERIOR RM W/KING OR 2 DBL BEDS LOCATED ON FLOORS 4-20
3 175.00 RACK/CORPORATE BUSINESS PLAN DLX RM COMP BKFST COFFEE MAKER IN-ROOM FAX MACHINE IRON W/BOARD AND BUSINESS CENTER.

In the following months, every GDS undertook programs to develop and activate seamless connectivity functionality. With initiation of Complete Access Plus by Amadeus in March of 1996, every GDS and switch company will have implemented seamless connectivity for hotels.

Seamless Connectivity Implementation

GDS

Product

Status - January, 1996

Apollo/Galileo International

Inside Availability

Activated Spring, 1993

31 hotel chains

First user - Radisson Hotels

System One/Amadeus

Complete Access Availability

Activated June, 1995

4 hotel chains

First user - Radisson Hotels

SABRE

Direct Connect Availability

Activated July, 1995

14 hotel chains

First user - Marriott Hotels

Worldspan

Hotel Source

Activated October, 1995

4 hotel chains

First user - Radisson Hotels

Amadeus

Complete Access Plus

March, 1996

First user - Radisson Hotels

Utilizing the seamless connectivity function of a GDS requires modifications, sometimes considerable in scope, to a hotel company’s CRS. Nonetheless, today over thirty hotel chains and representation organizations have taken the steps necessary to participate in Apollo Inside Availability. Most are committed to activating seamless links between their CRS and every GDSs by year end.

Implementing seamless connectivity links with the GDSs has become a competitive necessity for hotel management and representation companies. Travel agents -- and individuals with their PCs -- have rapidly come to expect and to base their buying decisions on the detailed, hotel company-provided descriptions that only this function can deliver.

And what does seamless connective mean for the future? Many predict that today’s product descriptions are just the first step in tapping the wealth of information in the hotel company CRSs. As seamless connectivity becomes the CRS/GDS connectivity standard, we can expect not only text descriptions, but the maps, pictures, indeed the full CRS-based multi-media displays and sales presentations now in the planning stages, to be made available to GDS users through the seamless links.

Hotel product presentation has taken a giant step forward with implementation of seamless, and its expansion will continue to be pushed by those who seek competitive advantage in the electronic marketplace.