Contributed by Sally Ramos, Director of Implementations, SHR
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to GDS, this is literally true.”
—Chuck Valentino, VP of Operations, Vagabond Inn
You need solid answers to today’s toughest hospitality technology questions. At SHR, we get this and we’re here to help. Based on feedback from our own clients, we decided it was time to get a clearer understanding of a particularly confusing topic—GDS. In a recent Ask Your SHR Expert webinar featuring Kameron Martinez, Client Experience Manager for SHR, our special guest Chuck Valentino, Vice President of Operations for Vagabond Inn, and myself, we tackled your most pressing issues, and how to make GDS really work for your hotel. Have you run into any of the following questions?
What is GDS and what are some benefits of connecting to it?
GDS (Global Distribution Systems) are used by travel management companies and online travel agencies (OTAs) to book hotels (along with airline tickets and vehicles), and offer real-time availability of rooms, rates, and dates. The four major GDS channels are Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport-Galieo, and WorldSpan. GDS can help your hotel reach over 700,000+ global travel agents as they select the right properties for their clients, and is the preferred method for negotiated and Consortia corporate business. “Considering that, you really should treat GDS with the same sense of urgency that you treat all your other channels,” advised Chuck.
What is the difference between GDS and IDS (Internet Distribution System)?
Your GDS was originally created for the airline industry for flights, but then it expanded to hotels, car rentals, and cruises. So, it has become about all travel in general. Then IDS became another collection that hit the industry, but it specializes more in the internet marketing industry, functioning as travel portals. They both serve as virtual marketplaces for public and Consortia rates, plus relevant hotel content.
How can our hotel check its presence on GDS?
You definitely want to contact your client experience manager and request a current copy of your HOD (Hotel Descriptions). This is important because you want to make sure you are representing your hotel properly by making sure your content parity is on pointe and accurate on all platforms. Remember, you can’t physically “see” GDS, so you need to make sure your content is consistent. “Travel agencies don’t know if your information is up to date or not, so be sure to take the guesswork out of it for them and run your HOD report at least once a quarter,” Kameron reminded us. “It’s really important to do this. I’m always surprised at how out-of-date content can get left behind,” Chuck added. “Besides older content, you can also update for any renovations you’ve done, or seasonal rates that have changed.”
Is there an ideal number of rooms/rates to have on GDS?
There are a lot of hotels with an amazing number of room types, but you may need to scale it back a bit to no more than nine rooms on GDS. “You want to put your best room forward due to constraints of the agents,” Chuck said. “They really don’t have time to scroll through 50 room types, so nine makes it very easy for them to focus on your offerings.” There is another reason as well that has to do with your particular CRS. “Displaying no more than nine room types with Windsurfer, for instance, also helps take into account your sort-ordered rooms and rate codes that are out there to pull,” Kameron explained.
Can I gain more control over my rates via audits?
Yes, yes, and yes! With Windsurfer, for example, you have full control over what you sell and when, whether that’s public, negotiated, or Consortia rates. You can market your room types more effectively with clear, precise messaging. “There are people within the GDS every single day out there to book your hotel, so getting the right info out there on your channels is key, especially any abbreviations that involve free services,” Kameron said. “This is where you want to spend the majority of your time,” Chuck added. “Regular auditing is simply non-negotiable.”
What are some alternatives for raising profits besides selling low on GDS?
Using RFP tools to gain additional business is an alternative, and this includes Consortia, to make yourself viewable for more business on a large, global platform. Look at your local businesses that may have travel coming into your city as avenues to bring more revenues for your property. “I know from my hotelier days, you’re constantly looking for new business,” said Kameron. “Having that negotiated rate can help you lock down more bookings.” Chuck reminded us of what might sound obvious, but what we tend to forget. “Fish where the fish are and make sure of what you are representing on GDS, and then maximize those items,” he said.
What are the top 3 items to concentrate on to optimize production in GDS, and should we lead with our BAR rate or the lowest rate showing in the rate range?
First and foremost, you want to sell smart! Make sure that you share your philosophy for OTA channel rates when you are setting rates for GDS. This means that offering the lowest rates the first time may not be your best bet. For example, does your property offer free WiFi? Are you within walking distance of some important venue? Add those components to your rate code description before you start lowering rates. “You can definitely change content to cater to what’s hot for each season or event as well,” advised Kameron. “And you have to have a plan, and make sure that plan fits with the rest of your hotel,” added Chuck.
Does commission drive GDS bookings?
While 10% commission is your industry standard, there are hoteliers who have promotions throughout the year that are worth paying higher rates for, so just make sure you know what is customary to offer agents for best results. “You can always offer a higher commission if you have certain constraints on your hotel bookings because agents are always looking for more cash in their pockets, but it’s not always necessary, so don’t feel that you have to automatically increase what you’re paying,” Kameron reminded everyone.
Can’t I just buy my way to the top of the heap via Amadeus, Sabre, etc.?
Maybe, or maybe not. For instance, Amadeus does offer a deal where you are guaranteed placement on the first or second page of their results. If you do purchase GDS marketing, make sure to create a specific rate code to track what you are paying for. “If you have a little more money in your budget to put towards this type of marketing, it is definitely worth it,” said Kameron. Chuck put things into perspective. “GDS marketing is really not that expensive compared to buying your way to the top of Google, for instance, but just understand that spending money may not guarantee you placement where you might expect,” he explained. “Just make sure you are getting value for your dollars.”