The Impact of Mobile OS on Travel Distribution
During the pre-Web days, traditional travel agents controlled distribution through their mastery of GDS cryptic formats. A travel agents’ worth (especially in a corporate travel setting) was often gauged by their proficiency on the GDS. The customer often viewed the travel agent’s systems as a black box with almost mystical capabilities. In this environment the only consumer interface to travel was the telephone or face-to-face conversations with a travel agent.
The Web created a new era of transparency for the travel process. Supplier sites, Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and meta-search engines suddenly removed the mystery behind travel pricing providing consumers with instant access to travel prices and schedules. This transparency has reshaped all sectors of the industry. Consumers now can compare a variety of sources and book entire vacations online. Even for those remaining traditional travel agents, would quickly admit that their conversations often include “I was looking at prices online and I found…). The Web also has changed the ground rules for distribution. Though the GDS still dominate offline and much of online distribution, direct channels through supplier direct websites and new alternative distribution platforms such as Farelogix (supported by the OpenAxis Group) are causing tensions in the traditional GDS-centric travel distribution ecosystems both economically and through the holding back of ancillary services from traditional distribution channels.