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GDS Issues Highlight First Day of EyeforTravel Confab

October 9, 2006 By: Eric Butterman Travel Agent

CHICAGO—The EyeforTravel Travel Distribution Summit in Chicago, October 4-5, was a chance for technology to meet ideas—and maybe a few deals. Owen Wild

The Great Annual GDS Debate panel was a highlight for the
first day of the summit, although Owen Wild, director of marketing for Amadeus
North America, was the only traditional GDS representative of the major four.

Travel Agent sat down before the panel with Wild, who
gave assurances that he felt up to the challenge of defending the GDS. "My
job is to just explain why GDSs are still so vital to the agent," he says.
"We can help in the areas of automation even without airline tickets. You
will see us continuing to bring the best of the e-commerce world out and add
more functionality to agency desktop programs. It's also time to look at more
user-friendly ways to integrate non-traditional content, including selling
travel insurance or even luggage. Customers want links to do credit card
fulfillment and have other rewards programs that we can be of greater assistance
with," he says. EyeforTravel
web site

Wild went last in the panel/debate, holding his own against
notables such as Derek Lewitton, vp sales for ITA Software, who intimated that
there are burgeoning alternatives to the four GDSs and we haven't seen nearly
what companies like his can do, partly because they've been "waiting on
the economics."

Dennis Law, SVP product management for Pegasus Solutions,
was quick to point out that everyone has to do a better job of attracting the
online consumer since the look-to-book ratio continues to get tougher. Of
online shopping, he urged: "It's instantaneous and if you don't give them
instantaneous gratification, they won't come back."

In other news from the conference, Bryan Donohue, account
development manager for Atlanta-based Premiere Global Services, found the
gathering an opportunity to expound on travel alerts, something he feels is
only going to become a greater part of travel technology product offerings.
"What I'm hearing is that value-added is more important to the business
than ever before," he says. "Because it's such a close race in terms
of airline tickets and hotel bookings, it's the level of service that's the
main reason a client will come back to an agent. You have to find better ways
to alert customers to any changes in flights and any last-second opportunities
you can give them in the way they want to be communicated to. If someone is attached
to their Blackberry then show them you can fill it with relevant

Christopher Chong, VP sales and business development for
Canadian-based VRX Studios, was effusive about showing agents showing customers
as much visual detail as possible about the hotels they're recommending.
"People don't want a description anymore," he says. "They want
pictures...but ones that are frequently updated. With the constant renovations
they make in Las Vegas, agents have to make sure they trust the source of the
photos they send their clients or else travelers may feel cheated when they get
to the room and see something completely different."

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