TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the latest trends regarding the global distribution model and how does the company makes sure to follow these?
MATTHEW POWELL: The traditional GDS concept has evolved to manage increasingly fragmented content and the pivot to mobile commerce. We outlined our strategic plan some years ago to manage this, and have focussed our organic and inorganic investments early. For example, we are managing the increased fragmentation of content for our agency customers by combining network and LCC content side-by-side, and integrating IATA NDC API sourced content with the broadest hotel and car content available from anyone in our space. This means agents can avoid switching to different travel websites or systems to fulfil a traveller’s requirements, and improves their ability to upsell.
With our entire travel content portfolio available to book within a single and integrated workflow, we believe we are currently ahead of the game, which is why we are winning with large OTAs like MakeMyTrip and innovative mobile players like Hopper.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the biggest challenges for GDS – especially considering technology and travel advancement – and what should GDS providers do in order to maintain their market position, remain relevant and meet customer needs?
MATTHEW POWELL: Travel technology continues to be an exciting place to be. A constant influx of new technologies, such as wearables, artificial intelligence, bots and virtual reality, may, to some, seem to be complicating the space but we feel they just present more opportunities to improve interaction with customers.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: With plenty highly accessible and reputable online travel agents, travellers are increasingly comfortable with booking trips independently. In your opinion is that a threat for GDS providers?
MATTHEW POWELL: Having the right content is key to giving customers the choice they want. On the provider-side, as technologies evolve and change, our open platform is able to consume content from all sources.
There has been a steady but clear step change in terms of how the industry now is talking about IATA NDC. For example, there is a realisation that it is not just about front-end aggregation but also about how to enable the workflow automation, change management processes, multiple content integration, robotics for fulfilment; data hand offs and so on, which the GDS provides.
An API format doesn’t, in itself, address any of these. Professional corporate, leisure and online agencies need all of this, plus aggregation and booking at scale, at speed, with reliability and a reasonable cost which is something where we excel.
[...] The value of a true open platform is that no connectivity preferences are out of scope. More than this, our new Trip services investments allow developers to code using lean, restful APIs that are mobile-first, quick to implement and ‘lightweight’ – allowing content to be consumed across devices and at speed. The trinity of search speed, content and accuracy then gives consumers what they want.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What does the future hold for GDS? Can you share with us some of your future plans, including new products and collaborations?
MATTHEW POWELL: Mobile first. Booking to go, while on the go, has become the new norm for the digitally connected traveller. We are tremendously excited about opportunities ahead in our industry, and nowhere more so than in mobile [...].
For Travelport and our customers, the shift to mobile means a number of things. First, investment to deliver a change in our search and shopping, using Data and Analytics so that we can serve up much more relevant content to mobile apps. Second, investing to make our search further refined and even faster [...]. It’s not just the booking. Mobile provides instant micro moments throughout the entire trip lifecycle – from the dreaming phase on the commute to work – through the searching and booking phases and onto the in-destination and post trip selfie-sharing phase. These are all opportunities to engage and deliver experiences to customers, which not only builds loyalty and satisfaction but also revenue.
Advanced mobile applications, linked to improved back-end automation represents a massive opportunity for the next phase of growth for the travel industry, in terms of distribution automation.
Personalisation also has enormous revenue potential for travel agencies [...]. Travelport is also investing in OTA technology to deliver improvements, not only in speed, but bookability and optimisation.