GDSs missed out on meta search

GDSs missed an opportunity to pioneer and eventually dominate the meta search market in the late-1990s, leaving start-ups to launch successful business and create strong brands.

This was the shock admission from Tom Klein, group president for Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Airline Solutions, who explained his regrets to delegates during questioning at the PhoCusWright conference at ITB in Berlin this week.

Klein hinted that the GDS did not see the importance of what the early meta search engines were doing and how popular they would become as the air fare purchase cycle by consumers become increasingly price driven.

Meta search is an area the GDSs should have got involved in at the time, Klein said.

It is understood to be one of the first times such a senior figure has admitted to missing an opportunity to corner the meta search market in its early days.

One senior airline executive told Travolution that he believed Klein’s comments were “surprisingly frank” given that GDSs have generally shied away in the past from loading praise onto the meta search engines.

“You can see perhaps why they are now regretting their decision, as meta search would have given them the opportunity to monetise another part of their business and reach consumers, but without cannibalising their existing relationships with the airlines,” he added.

So far the GDSs have provided only technology support to the industry to cope with the growth of meta search engines.

Amadeus unveiled its meta pricer system in late-2006 in response to concern from airlines and online travel agencies about search costs incurred when meta search engines throw queries into the GDS.

Similar cache-based systems are also believed to be under consideration by the other GDS providers.

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