GDS Issues Highlight First Day of EyeforTravel Confab

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 information."

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."