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Inside the GDS Deals: Possible Effects on AgenciesDecember 18, 2006 By: Eric Butterman Travel Agent
For those who felt GDSs haven't been on the move in the last few years, consider this light speed.
With the announcement that Worldspan is being purchased by
Travelport in a $1.4 billion deal, GDS consolidation is brought down to three
players. However, with Sabre revealing that it's being purchased by investment
firm Silver Lake Partners and Texas Pacific Group for roughly $5 billion, it
means all GDSs will now be privately owned, something Forrester travel analyst
Henry Harteveldt feels could greatly benefit travel agents.
"When you don't have to worry about pleasing
stockholders with quarterly earnings reports, you can focus on product
innovation more and Sabre may very well do that," he says. "While
Worldspan has been privately owned, it also hasn't gone nearly as far as it
could to take advantage of its technology, from the data centers on down, and I
believe Travelport will give it the room it needs."
Furthermore, Harteveldt feels Worldspan and Travelport fill
in missing links for the other, something he didn't think would have been the
case if rumors of a Sabre buyout of Worldspan had ever come to fruition.
"When Cendant bought Galileo five years ago, it was
always thought that they should buy Worldspan, because they're complementary
systems," he says. Travelport doesn't have multi-host capability and
Worldspan does. It also has superior air pricing technology to go along with
Travelport's content that can benefit Worldspan subscribers. On the other hand,
I don't expect Travelport will be able to keep one hundred percent of the
customer base since
regulators may want a certain portion up for bid because of consolidation
Ivan Bekkers, CEO of Atlanta-based Agentware, a travel
distribution channel, is also concerned that the consolidation could actually
have a negative effect on the quality of GDS products via less competition and
believes the airlines are partly to blame for this situation.
"The airlines have committed so much through the GDS,
and if you have four players down to three or three down to two, that will
create a stronger position for the GDS to dictate terms for the travel agency
business," he says. "It's my hope that the airlines will develop
alternative ways of getting to the travel market, but their past decisions make