I wanted to further clarify my beliefs regarding the changing travel distribution environment. First let me make one point clear, I do not believe the GDS will “replaced” by the so called GNEs. A more realistic scenario is that both GDS and GNEs will exist as low cost distribution channels. The debate should not be framed around GDS verses GNEs. Instead the issue concerns the point at which travel content is aggregated. Whether the major industry players are willing to admit it or not, we live in an environment where inventory is already fragmented. Here are just a few examples to prove my point:
1) LCCs such as Southwest airlines cannot be purchased online other than at southwest.com
2) In Europe where 80% of the hotel inventory is from independent properties a majority of these properties are not in the GDS and therefore not available through traditional GDS-based booking engines. This applies to rail and ferry travel as well.
3) The major TMCs such as WorldTravel are investing millions in a new platform (project Renaissance) that will aggregate content from multiple inventory sources.
4) Large leisure agencies (e.g. Liberty Travel) have also been investing heavily in infrastructure changes to accommodate the new multi-source environment.
At the end of the day, suppliers (air, car and hotel) must have the right to chose how they want to distribute their product and at what price. This is basic market economics which has been masked by a distribution environment controlled by a few large entities (the oligopoly that has been the GDS). The Internet has permanently changed distribution by opening new and emerging channels. The GDS will continue to be a major source for travel inventory, just not the ONLY source.