What is a GDS (Global Distribution System)?

A Global Distribution System (GDS) is a central platform that enables travel agencies, online travel agencies, airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other service providers to distribute products and services efficiently. It serves as a one-stop shop for travel information and bookings, enabling seamless transactions and providing travelers with multiple options at competitive prices, underscoring its critical role in the modern travel industry.

How does a Global Distribution System work?

Here is a condensed description of how a GDS works:

  • Integration: Service providers such as airlines, hotels and car rental companies integrate their inventory and pricing information into the GDS database.
  • Access: Travel agents access the Global Distribution System through specialized software or web interfaces. They can search for available flights, hotel rooms, rental cars and other travel services based on specific criteria such as date, destination and budget.
  • Reservation: Once a traveler selects a service, the travel agency or online travel agency makes the reservation directly through the GDS. The system then communicates with the service provider’s reservation system to confirm the booking and issue tickets or vouchers.
  • Updates and changes: The GDS constantly updates availability and pricing information in real time to ensure that travel agents and travelers have access to the most up-to-date options. It also allows existing bookings to be changed or canceled if necessary.

Who uses a Global Distribution System?

Various companies in the travel industry rely on GDSs to help them operate:

  • Travel Agencies: Both traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies and online travel agencies use Global Distribution Systems to search and book travel on behalf of their clients.
  • Airlines: The world’s major airlines distribute their flight inventory through GDSs, making it available to travel agents and travelers worldwide.
  • Hotels: Hotel chains and individual properties use GDSs to distribute room availability and rates to travel agents and corporate clients.
  • Car rental companies: Car rental companies integrate their fleets and rates into Global Distribution Systems, allowing travel agents to book cars for their clients.

What different GDSs are there?

There are several Global Distribution Systems (GDS) that are widely used in the travel and tourism industry. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Amadeus: Amadeus is one of the largest GDSs and serves a wide range of travel suppliers worldwide, including airlines, hotels, car rental companies and tour operators.
  • Sabre: Sabre is another leading GDS offering a full range of travel services. It is used by airlines, hotels, cruise lines, car rental companies and other travel service providers.
  • Travelport: Travelport is a GDS provider that offers a range of solutions for the travel industry, including the Apollo, Galileo and Worldspan systems. It provides travel agencies with access to a wide range of travel services and also offers technology solutions for airlines, hotels and other travel suppliers.
  • Worldspan: Worldspan is part of Travelport and provides a range of services to travel suppliers and travel agencies.
  • ITA Software by Google: ITA Software is a technology company acquired by Google that provides travel search and booking solutions. It offers advanced tools for searching airfares, itineraries and availability.

These GDS systems offer similar services, but there are also differences in terms of functionalities, coverage, user interface and availability of additional services. Travel suppliers and travel agencies often choose the GDS that best suits their specific requirements.

Who finances a Global Distribution System?

Funding for a Global Distribution System typically involves a combination of revenue streams:

  • Subscription fees: Travel agencies and OTAs pay subscription fees for access to the GDS platform and its services.
  • Transaction fees: Service providers pay a commission or transaction fee for each booking made through the GDS.
  • Additional services: Global Distribution System providers may offer additional services, such as marketing solutions, analytics and consulting, for which they charge fees.
  • Advertising revenue: Some GDS platforms generate revenue through advertising partnerships with travel-related companies.

Would you like to learn more about our travel management solutions?

Contact our sales team to explore how we can assist you with your corporate travel program.

Contact Sales

All HOW DO I pages