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Using GDS systems to best advantage

The Rooms Chronicle, Vol. 4, No. 4 July/August 1996

HEDNA, The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association, recently reported that the number of hotel reservations delivered by the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) increased 30.8% in 1995, that after a 22.1% increase in 1994.  Amadeus, Apollo/Galileo, SABRE, and the other GDSs are producing more and more hotel reservations.  The question that follows is: "Are you receiving your share of those bookings?"

Travel agents using GDS terminals decide to book one hotel rather than another for a number of reasons, just as they sometimes choose to call one chain's 800 number for a reservation rather than another.  A proven powerful influence in the property selection process is the skill with which a hotel first presents and then promotes itself.  Presentation and promotion are as important in the electronic Global Distribution System environment as they are in every other booking channel.

Admittedly, to a large degree, GDS presentation and promotion are controlled by the chain or representation company a hotel relies on for its listing in each Global Distribution System.  These organizations follow GDS-specified display format guidelines, modifying them as they think appropriate to most effectively communicate the group identity.

There remains, nonetheless, ample opportunity for individual properties to impact both their hotel's presentation and promotion -- with potentially powerful results.

Presentation

When a travel agent requests a GDS display of hotels with rooms available, the result is a randomly ordered list of between 4 to 7 properties with basic location, rate and room type data.  Agents may then asks for all hotels in that city/airport code to be displayed.  The Amadeus HD display shown below is typical.

  US NYC ALL       FR03MAY96-04May 96    )END
   **SINGLE OCCUPANCY RATES **           CHECK HF
  1 HY/GRAND HYATT NEW YORK   NYCHNY D RCAR USD  DSO
    1A) A1KRAC   A   240.00   1B) A1KRAC   A 240.00
  2 HE HELMSLEY MIDDLETOWN HOTEL NYCHEM DTAXI USD  0
    1A) A1KRAC   A   165.00   1B) A1DRAC   A 235.00
  3 LW/HELMSLEY PARK LANE     NYC727 D TAXI   USD  D
    1A) C1QRAC   A   295.00   1B) T2DRAC   R 885.00
  4 HI/HOL INN CROWNE PARK    NYCD6C D TAXI   USD D0
    1A) A1KRAC   A   199.95   1B) A1KRAC   A 199.95
                                            *COR GOV
  5 HI/HOL INN DOWNTOWN       NYCD19B N LIMO USD D O
    1A) B1DBAB   A   140.00   1B) B1DRAC   A 155.00
                                            *PRO*COR
  6 HI/HOL INN ORANGEBURG     NYCA30 N RCAR  USD D0
    1A) A1KRAC   A    82.00   1B) A1KBAB   A  85.00

                                            *PRO*COR

 

Either through selection of a hotel from these lists (or entry of a specific property's ID code), the travel agent can view a detailed display of hotel facts, features, and services.  Carrying various names (Galileo-HOD; SABRE-HOD; System One Amadeus-HD; Worldspan-Property Description; Amadeus-Hotel Features; SAHARA-HOF), these property descriptions are vital to the hotel selection process.  It is essential that this descriptive data -- along with room rates and availability -- be current, complete and accurate.

Chain or representation company staff endeavor to achieve accuracy and completeness, but with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of property descriptions to maintain (usually for properties they have never seen) the staff cannot know every property's full description.  And so it falls to the hotel staff to ensure the required completeness and accuracy.

Generally hotel descriptions and information are segmented by topic -- often termed keywords.  In SABRE, for instance, the mandatory keywords are:

  • LOCATION:  City where property is located.
  • TRANSPORTATION:  Method of transportation from primary airport.
  • POLICY:  Guidelines that apply to children, pets, check-in/check-out, maximum guests per room, etc.
  • FACILITIES: Physical features, number of rooms, pools, restaurants, number of floors, etc.
  • SERVICES:  Hours and services such as valet, room service, baby-sitting, etc.  Usually at additional charge.
  • OTHER:  Nearby activities and miscellaneous information.

Presentation style is either prose -- full sentences -- or bulleted.  Bulleted format style, with information condensed for speedy review, is increasingly the preference.  Even in a bullet format, the wording should be sales-oriented.  Use of the right adjective can be powerful in creating a positive perception of the property for the agent, for example, 390 guest rooms or 390 bright, spacious, guest rooms and suites.

Every hotel chain  and representation company has a marketing automation professional on staff who manages the team responsible for maintaining property descriptions in the GDSs.  Hotel staff should contact that person to discuss the hotel's property descriptions.  A printout from one, or all, of the GDSs should be requested for review and revision.  Remember, too, that property descriptions generally reflect the data in the chain's central reservation system.  If information is found to be misleading or inaccurate, the central reservation system's information should also be reviewed.

Some systems require several days to make data changes, but hotels must strive to keep information current.  Restaurant changes or pool closed notifications help agents correctly inform their clients.

Systems usually provide for search by city, airport, attraction, hotel, or rate range.  But, some systems allow searches by amenity, such as kitchenettes.  Again, hotel staff must be meticulous in writing information for the GDSs.

Once the hotel's property description meets completeness and sales orientation goals, the next focus is promotion.

Promotion

Webster's Dictionary defines promotion as the act of furthering the growth or development of something.  If the product presentation just examined is thought of as passive, promotion is the active process of bringing the hotel to the attention of prospective buyers -- travel agents using the various GDSs.

Every Global Distribution System now offers promotional opportunities, some of which are free while others are available for a fee.  In many cases, these promotions can be used to showcase individual hotels or to announce a hotel's special offers.  For instance, sign-on messages, bulletin boards, broadcast messages, headlines, electronic directories, and mail stuffings.

Chain, corporate, and representation company marketing automation staff are professional, creative and dedicated.  But their staff resources are tightly stretched and they often wish there were more opportunities to work with properties in information review and promotion planning.

Today an important opportunity exists for managers at the property level to work with marketing-automation staff to position the hotel advantageously in the GDSs.  Become acquainted with the GDS marketing staff and make full use of the options available for hotels.  Those who are active partners in the presentation and promotion of their hotel will see increased production from the global distribution systems.