Questioning the travel industry status quo, one blog post at a time

Archive for the ‘Travel Distribution’ Category

ZeusLast week’s PhoCusWright Conference in Hollywood, Florida, with its record-breaking attendance, had the theme “Cult of Context.” When prepping for the event I thought to myself, hey, it’s been quite some time since I have joined a cult and most of the scares and horrible nightmares have gone away from my last cult-joining experience, so what the heck, join the “Cult of Context.” How bad can it be? So I joined!

Session after session, innovator after innovator, offered up profound, or at least novel, examples of travel product personalization, content-relevancy generating algorithms, and example after example of delivering the right product to the right person at the right time. I’ll bet I heard that last expression 50 times throughout the Conference. By the way, as an aside, I thought the Conference was one of the better PCW Conferences I have attended. It was also Tony D’s coming out event as PCW’s new ring leader. Well done, circus-master TD, as you and the PCW team once again demonstrated how a thought-leader conference can be super-professionally run, inclusive of opinion and perspective, and even have a few streaks of fun. I suspect Mr. D will bring in a bit more of the latter, in his next PCW appearance.

Back to the “Cult of Context.” I had the wonderful opportunity of participating on a panel titled, “Flights of Fancy” with Kurt Ekert, COO of Travelport, and Bob Kupbens, VP Marketing and Digital Commerce at Delta. Tony D did his usual yeoman’s job of navigating us through thought-provoking questions about airline distribution, personalization, customer engagement, etc. We had a somewhat spirited discussion about the differences between Direct and Indirect airline distribution channels ending with what I thought to be a fairly profound general consensus that the lines need to blur and the gap needs to close between the two channels – even to the point of a suggesting that we (the industry we) lose altogether both the terminology and the notion that there is any difference between the two, at least from an airline’s customer engagement, brand differentiation, and product(s) delivery point of view. With the notable exception that travel agents or corporate booking tools may play a “proxy” role in product display and transaction delivery on behalf of the airline, thus adding their own value in the process but not impacting the actual airline offer for that particular customer or corporation. Read the rest of this entry »

I always love going to the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) conference. This year it was held in beautiful Boston. What I really enjoy about GBTA is how low key it has become, including a line up of lesser known guest speakers (one named Bush and the other named Clinton), a smattering of attendees (including the top brass from every TMC you could name), airline execs from around the world, heavy hitters from technology, hotel, and car rental companies, some network news faces, and, of course, the stars of the show—corporate travel managers from some of the largest most innovative companies in the world. All gather to address one thing–The Management of Corporate Travel.

So once again the folks from GBTA pulled off a winner.

But that winner is not the subject of this blog. The winner I am referring to is a new and innovative Open Booking concept that started to pick up some momentum a few months before GBTA with the likes of Shorts Travel, Concur, The Manifesto, GDSx, ProcureApp, US Foods, and KDS. In Boston, the concept wafted throughout the conference, almost to the point of creating a buzz. In the days following the event, it has received even more endorsement from a number of vendors and brought on new adopters like Google and Salesforce.com Read the rest of this entry »

I recently read The Beat’s article about Sabre’s plans to beef-up its virtual meetings product with booking capabilities. Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me. But given that the majority of Sabre’s (and the other GDSs’) revenue today comes from airlines, one could probably safely assume that the funds needed by the GDS to invest in and develop this new business line came directly from the airlines. Which is the basis of my question: Should the GDS be in the teleconferencing business? After all, it is a business that is in direct competition with their core customers’ business. More Teleconferencing = Less Airline Travel.

One really doesn’t even have to think too long about this question. The answer is obvious.

© coramax - Fotolia.com

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Did you see Friday’s Beat commentary by Joe Da Rosa from Balboa Travel, in which Joe voiced his strong opposition to the commoditization of travel agency services?

Now I’ve known Joe for ages—all the way back to my System One and Amadeus days. Anyone who meets Joe instantly knows he is a professional, a gentleman, and a leader… and from what I know of Joe, it takes quite a bit for him to “get his dander up.” So, knowing Joe, his agitation must be justified, and, in this case, I think he’s absolutely right.

Travel agencies invest in people and resources. They work very hard to compete for their business, and the last thing they need is for anyone to view their products and services as commodities. It is absurd, preposterous, outrageous… and if the holidays weren’t upon us, I would really go off here.

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Even though there is a lot of jabber about the GDSs outlining plans to charge travel agencies for their selling systems, I am not aware of anyone actually doing it— Wait, wait! Whoa! Stop the presses! Travelport seems to have thrown down the gauntlet. And I, for one, am not surprised. As I see it, it was only a matter of time.

© Yanik Chauvin - Fotolia.com

The GDSs are facing a very challenging situation when it comes to modern day selling of travel products and services. Their agent point-of-sale systems are obsolete, and they know it. GDS companies are staring into a pretty significant investment hole if they decide to attack the problem head on and not attempt an incremental facelift.

Sure, many travel agents will publicly say they like the current green screen systems, but a reality check says they like them because the agency ownership gets paid to use them, and the GDS green screen selling system is virtually the only game in town. And let’s be honest, using the GDS green screen product is complex, so there is also an element of job security for the agents currently using it. I get it. We all understand the economics and realities of the current situation. But that doesn’t mean we should simply sit back and accept it. Especially if you really think about it from an agent’s point-of-view.

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Hey, did everyone note the news from CWT the other day? Maybe it slipped by. Or maybe you read it but didn’t catch the irony or impact. I read it but I can’t believe it.  Maybe someone should have called me before announcing it. I would have done my best to share a bit of my own experience — a bit of the pain and anguish that comes from trying to buck the status quo.

Lest we’ve all forgotten, let me remind everyone of what happened when we “debuted.”  They cancelled our developer agreements. They went to our existing and potential customers and partners and “advised them” to stay clear from us. Kept telling folks there was no need for “Non-GDS” anything. The GDS had it all… you know Full Content and all. Hey, I wonder if hotels have Full Content Agreements?

Anyway, they even said some unflattering things in the press about our products. We had to spend lots of money on lawyers and tons of time away from our core business to counter the countless negative allegations about our business and products… We even had to hire a bobblehead spokesperson… and you can’t even imagine how expensive and demanding they are. Absolute Prima Donna! Read the rest of this entry »

You can just imagine my delight when I read the Beat article titled, Travelport: Innovation Comes With A Price. I was almost giddy. A GDS finally discussing innovation investment! According to Travelport’s chief, a new world is coming “with Universal Desktop, Universal API, new types of content and so forth.” Yet, all this new content connectivity (music to my ears, by the way) “comes with a price.” Well, yeah, innovation ain’t free. We’ve been innovating for a number of years and our investors will certainly tell you “innovation comes with a price.” But I thought the principle of innovation was to make an investment up-front in order to reap the benefits on the back end. But anyway, I’m digressing. It’s just interesting to note where this particular GDS is saying this price for innovation will come from. It sounds like the travel agencies may be paying the GDS for innovative technology solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

So there I was on Sunday—Mother’s Day—sitting on a very comfortable couch. I had just returned from the bakery after picking up a few of my wife’s favorite breakfast pastries. Now obviously she’s not my mother, but I figured I had to do something considering that the kids would probably once again be scrambling that morning to find something they didn’t want anymore to re-gift to her, or make a dash to the gas station for a lovely floral arrangement.

Anyway, everyone else was still asleep and I was enjoying a lovely cup of coffee. I figured I might as well catch up on some emails. As soon as I logged on, there it was—an email from the marketing team. The subject was, “BTC is at it again.” Great. What now? I had yet to even open it and my Sunday—Mother’s Day—was ruined.

Look, I’m sure the folks at Business Travel Coalition are not bad guys. Really. We just happen to be on diametrically opposite sides of the travel distribution debate. Oil and water. Fire and ice. You get the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

John "The Ohio Icicle" Sherman

Anyone who follows the airline travel industry in the slightest knows it has quite a kerfuffle on its hands. With airlines suing GDSs (and their affiliates) for anticompetitive practices, and the GDSs calling the lawsuits “baseless,” it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on.

It seems based on my straw poll that while lots of folks have their opinions on these various lawsuits, a threshold impediment to understanding the situation is that few people know what this Sherman Antitrust Act really is. At best, it is a distant memory from our high school US History class. For the sake of clarity, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 is named after very former Senator John Sherman of Ohio, most notably referred to as “The Ohio Icicle.” This measure was passed to prohibit “trusts,” based on Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. A trust for these purposes has been defined as an arrangement by which stockholders in several companies transferred their separate company shares to a single set of trustees that then manage those unified shares for the benefit of the different stockholders. The combination of those separate interests into one common interest tended to destroy competition.  Read the rest of this entry »