Future of travel distribution: Stop talking about collaboration, and start doing it!

KDS | November 12, 2015

This week, I was invited to take part in a panel discussion which focused on the Future of Travel Distribution at GBTA’s European conference in Frankfurt.

We discussed a number of different drivers that are impacting travel distribution, not just in the future, but right now. One of the most high profile and well documented is the move by Lufthansa who have announced a change in their distribution model, which results in additional charges for booking their flights through the GDS. It’s lonely being the first, breaking away from the pack. It remains to be seen whether others will follow suit. This move has been met with a mixed response from the market and competitors so far seem to be biding their time and standing back in ‘wait and see’ mode.

I like to simplify things and with suppliers that’s easy. Suppliers want more customers at equal or greater margin – to do this they want to personalise their service to attract and retain more customers at a potential price premium through upselling products. Travellers are the ones that are changing their buying behaviour, they are cost conscious but they want the trip to be a better door to door experience. Technology is just an enabler. Big data, small data and mobile apps are now able to link suppliers to individuals and lets them target services based on their preference, history and current needs. So when suppliers and buyers want the same thing it causes a big squeeze on the people in charge of the budget and those who manage distribution!

At GBTA I made a plea to the budget holders, travel managers, suppliers and distributors – stop talking about collaboration and start doing it! We all want change but no one is prepared to change. Is NDC an opportunity or a threat? The answer is both – but if we don’t evolve together there will be a revolution and that’s where people lose their heads.

For me, the driver that I’m most excited about is the focus on multi-modal door to door content. We’ve been addressing the need to deliver a personal experience by thinking of the travellers’ journey from door to door for 3 years now. We’ve seen massive traction recently as the market approach to business travel shifts. If we continue to look at individual components of travel the user experience is always at the mercy of the weakest link. A great flight and perfect hotel can be tainted considerably by a bad experience getting to and from the airport. So what’s the answer? By looking at the trip in its entirety, door to door, match it with the travellers preferences, their needs and the context and then curate a trip that ties all the elements together you can really deliver the personal experience.

Now, we’re all used to booking air and hotel elements together, but when it comes to the ‘long tail’ i.e. those additional elements to complete the trip we’ve found that the wider and fragmented eco-system just isn’t ready or able to deliver the breadth of content necessary. To address this, earlier this year KDS launched a content hub to bring all the elements of door to door travel together. Through the content hub a myriad of these ‘long-tail’ services can be delivered in a seamless way. We’ve made it easy for suppliers of taxis, parking, shuttles, restaurants and entertainment to integrate with the KDS platform through our published APIs which then enables their content to be served to the corporate end user. So, that local family run taxi service that you know and trust now has the opportunity to compete for the corporate business whilst maintaining their personalised service. This also gives corporates the flexibility to control costs by integrating those services that they want their users to access. Good for the supplier, good for the corporate and good for the end user experience.

Whilst there are many influences driving change in travel distribution, I truly believe that distribution of this ‘long tail’ content is key to delivering a frictionless, personalised trip. This will, and in fact is already transforming business travel.

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