It’s an understatement to say that the global distribution companies have evolved away from their traditional airline focus to bring accommodation into the mix.
Furthermore, the increasing fragmentation in that particular market and demand for less traditional city hotel content has pushed them to up their game again.
Sabre announced the launch of its Content Services for Lodging platform a year ago as well as the integration of listings from Booking.com.
At the company’s STX event last month, Traci Mercer, senior vice president of lodging, ground and sea for Sabre Travel Network, reveals that the GDS “had lost share in lodging distribution” and wants to figure out why.
She also says Sabre had developed the platform in response to demand for more content and functionality from both the supply and demand side.
Rival GDS Travelport has had a deal with Booking.com since 2012, when it added the content from the online travel agency to its Rooms And More platform. Rooms and More now claims access to more than 650,000 properties.
In late May, Amadeus also announced a partnership with Booking.com, saying the deal boosted its accommodation offering by 30%.
The addition of new sources of content raises an interesting theory of whether GDSs can create their own network effect.
Peter Waters, executive vice president, hotels, mobility and insurance for Amadeus, believes this to be the case.
“We have increased our beach, resort and leisure content which allows us to be a much more attractive content sourcing partner to retail agencies and other online channels so it has expanded our customer base enormously.”
He adds that the more volume going across the platform makes it a more attractive proposition for providers to come in because “they see they will get more bookings.”
Waters claims “double digit plus” growth for a number of years for the platform.
He also says a “back of the envelope guess” is that 20% of the accommodation sold across the platform is either new content sources or resort destination product.
Content, content and more... something else
Little surprise then that the GDSs are investing in their lodging content but with travel distribution it’s rarely a case of just integrating content.
Waters says the company is now in “production launch phase” for the booking content with a plan to go live in several markets in the next few days.
That’s perhaps testament to the complexity of the hospitality product.
While Amadeus has added that this type of content before, from Expedia. Hotelsbeds etc., there is inevitably a significant amount of duplication.
Waters says Amadeus has five million representations of hotels on its system but over a million unique hotels.
“On average a hotel can be shown three or four times. You can find a hotel directly by property or chain, on one of our aggregators or wholesalers or OTAs, or in several.”
A standardization layer, which Waters describes as the “magic ingredient” in its hotels platform normalizes the data so it is only displayed once and travel sellers can see the same room, hotel and date and then compare prices and see what margin or commission they might make from a booking.
Waters claims that the standardization is driven by artificial intelligence which sorts hundreds, some times thousands, of different definitions of a property, to show the channel the hotel room is coming from as well as the category of room enabling agents to compare with other rooms.
He says: “When we present that room on our display we’re presenting apples to apples between the different channels. That’s what we think is the real differentiation, value add and unique flavor of what the Amadeus hotel platform does and we do it across room types, rate types, form of payment types…”
Sabre, which cites a similar figure for properties available via its new lodging distribution technology, has also worked on normalizing the data with usability studies showing agents reaching a booking decision faster.
And Travelport says its proprietary algorithm normalizes and standardizes the content.
The GDSs continue to see opportunity and growth in their hospitality divisions. Sabre, for example, announced a 7% increase to $73 million in revenue generated by Sabre Hospitality Solutions in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.
Meanwhile, Amadeus continues to build out its accommodation distribution as well as technology infrastructure for hotels.
It reported double digit revenue growth for its new businesses (hospitality, airports, rail) in the first quarter of 2019 excluding Travelclick which it acquired for $1.52 billion just under a year ago.
Waters says the ambition is to continue growth and “become the default hotel platform for B2B channels.”
“What we’ve really become is the biggest, professional metasearch with bookability platform in the industry.”