Travel agents are using global distribution systems more than ever before, according to new research covering 650 retailers from 34 countries.
The percentage of agents increasing their usage of GDS was up by 14% from 2011. The only other channel that showed growth was hotel/chain websites, which increased 3%.
Agents’ use of all other channels, including other agent booking tools, telephone to hotel/CRO, travel mega-sites, general hotel directories and direct mail/fax, shrank by 21% in the past two years.
Rate parity emerged as a critical issue for agents. Of those surveyed, 81% stated it is very important that the GDS offer rate parity. Nearly two-thirds (62%) stated that they would book away from hotels that do not offer full rate parity within the GDS.
The study for cloud-based hotel solutions company TravelClick highlighted agents’ desire to provide value and build loyalty with clients by booking promotional rates and best available rates as opposed to just relying on negotiated rates. The study also found that:
- Nearly 60% of agents will book a hotel room based on best available or promotional message over any other factor.
- The number of agents offering their clients alternatives to negotiated rates increased 21% from 2011 to 2013.
In addition, more than half (53%) indicated that a promotional message steered them to book one negotiated rate over another.
Beyond providing competitive pricing, agents also indicated that amenities were critical in making a booking decision. The most popular amenities were free internet and free breakfast (both at 79%).
The bi-annual global travel agent GDS study, conducted by market research firm Phoenix Marketing International in partnership with TravelClick, surveyed agents who use Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre and Worldspan.
TravelClick business intelligence, media and web solutions executive vice president Jason Ewell said: “The GDS is more popular with travel agents than ever. This year the GDS is on track to produce 58 million hotel reservations, up 5 million from 2011.
“As key influencers in booking decisions, hotels need to merchandise themselves to travel agents at the point of sale through the GDS.”
He added: “With more agents using the GDS, there is an increased emphasis on ensuring rate parity so that agents can maintain credibility with their clients. There is nothing worse for an agent than offering a rate to clients only to learn that they could find a better rate by themselves on a different channel.
“Negotiated rates aren’t the only option for travel agents using a GDS. Travel agents put a premium on booking the best available rate for clients and promotional messaging helps agents find the best rate whether negotiated or not.
“Agents affirmed that promotional messages from GDS advertising influence bookings,” said Ewell.
“To generate bookings from travel agents, hotels need to go beyond just offering a good rate by providing value-added amenities.
“This was one area that emerged as more important than when the study was conducted in the past, as travel agents continue to focus on building customer loyalty by providing value that their clients can’t find elsewhere.”