In 2006, when ARN last wrote about global distribution systems, they were only the domain of large car rental companies. At the time, there were four GDSs: Sabre, Amadeus, Worldspan, and Galileo (which had absorbed Apollo, another GDS). Their legacy software and technology made it not financially feasible for mid-tier and smaller car rental companies to connect to them. Programming was carried out in a complex computer language called EDIFACT, and skilled programmers were expensive. So was the required hardware.
Today, the landscape consists of Sabre, Amadeus, and Travelport, owner of Worldspan and Galileo. All three have implemented many changes in the last several years. Software upgrades, open source compliance, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), a consistent car classification system, seamless environments, e-vouchers and prepaid rates make connecting easier, sellers more knowledgeable and travel suppliers richer.
These changes are also beginning to open the door for mid-tier—and smaller—car rental companies to connect to a GDS.
There is now a fourth company on the map offering GDS-type connectivity. CarTrawler specializes in aggregating the data of car rental supplier companies while eliminating the usual GDS fees for the car rental company. This allows smaller, niche-oriented car rental companies to connect more cost effectively and increase both premium and incremental sales.
“The cost of technology is dropping and consumers are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to researching and booking travel,” says Valyn Perini, executive director of OpenTravel Alliance, a trade group developing a common standard for the exchange of information within the travel industry. “The GDSs are working hard to stay competitive with new distribution companies entering the online marketplace, and to provide value not only to consumers but also to their rental car company partners,” she says.