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Sunday, July 14, 2024

GDS players highlight booking trends

GDS players highlight booking trends

Recently updated on March 12th, 2024 at 01:09 pm

Global Distribution System (GDS) platforms, Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, have revealed their latest trends, such as booking lead times, payments methods, consumer travel spending priorities, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Booking lead times

Andy Hedley, GM South Africa, Amadeus, said although the GDS did not routinely publish search or booking lead times, it had noticed a trend for booking lead times for sporting and music events.

“Across international markets, we see evidence that travellers are showing a strong interest in traveling to live events – including sports and music events – with lead times shortening by five days on average.”

Sabre said it had uncovered a booking trend for 2024 based on a comprehensive survey of its global workforce and an analysis of its extensive travel data.

“There’s a growing preference for booking leisure travel three months in advance, a move towards more forward-planning strategies. This trend is likely to be driven by a desire for cost savings and a reduction in concerns related to travel uncertainty that were prevalent during the pandemic.

“Business travel bookings tend to be made with a narrower window of two to four weeks prior to departure, indicating a prioritisation of flexibility and immediate needs rather than long-term planning,” the GDS said.

Payment methods

Regarding payment methods, Sabre highlighted that that one of the leading trends was virtual payments.

“They are key for the present and future for the travel industry, streamlining booking and payment processes, offering greater security, efficiency and enhanced reconciliation capabilities crucial to managing the complexities of travel transactions. Sabre is partnering with multiple issuers to provide a more flexible and secure method of managing payments.”

Sabre added that digital payment trends were growing worldwide.

“For Sabre, virtual cards are at the forefront of the most common payment methods in the B2B travel industry. Sabre’s commitment to virtual cards, particularly through Sabre Virtual Payments, highlights the benefits in terms of security, efficiency, and convenience. They address the complexities of travel transactions by offering a secure, automated, and integrated payment solution that simplifies and adds value to transactions for travel management companies, online travel agencies and travel suppliers.”

Consumer travel spending priorities

The second edition of the ‘Consumer travel spend priorities’ research conducted by Outpayce from Amadeus, revealed that high-earning households were expected to drive continued strong demand for international travel over the coming 12 months.

Despite continuing economic uncertainty, higher earners – categorised as households with more than US$120 000 in pre-tax income per annum — prioritised international travel, citing successful investments, savings made during the pandemic and pay rises as key enablers.

  • International travel was deemed a ‘high priority’ by 68% of higher earners compared with 47% across all salary brackets.
  • 65% of higher earners plan to take more international trips over the coming 12 months than they did in 2019, compared with 38% of respondents across all income brackets.
  • 58% of higher earners plan to spend more on international travel over the coming 12 months than they did in 2019, compared with an average of 36% across all salary brackets.
  • Higher earners expect to spend US$7 413 on international travel over the coming 12 months, compared with an average of US$3 422 across all salary brackets.
  • When higher earners were asked why they could spend more on travel, the top answers were:
    • Made money on recent investments so I can spend on travel (41%)
    • Saved during the pandemic, enabling greater spend on travel (40%)
    • Received a pay rise recently, meaning I have the freedom to spend on travel (40%).

Jean-Christophe Lacour, SVP Global Head of Product Management and Delivery, Outpayce from Amadeus, commented: “We’re seeing continued strong demand for travel across most parts of the world and it’s clear that higher-earning households are major contributors to this trend.”

According to Sabre’s 2024 trends, more than 75% of travellers are mapping out two or more journeys, with nearly 90% planning to maintain or increase their spending compared with 2023. Approximately 40% of these travellers anticipate a budget boost, a trend especially pronounced amongst Gen Z travellers.

Furthermore, a prominent trend is the growing popularity of traveling as a couple and a willingness to pay a premium of up to 5% for more sustainable travel options. Additionally, a substantial portion of travellers is open to paying up to 15% more to offset the carbon emissions generated by their trips.

The use of AI

While AI – the ability to perceive, synthesise and infer information by computers – has been in use across the Amadeus business for some years, it is now starting to see the next generation of development – generative AI.

“Unlike other types of AI, which are focused on classification or prediction, generative AI has uses in optimisation, machine translation (the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another) and a variety of other tasks,” said Hedley.

He added that Amadeus was excited by the potential of generative AI to make the experience of travel better. “With a proven track record of deploying innovative travel technology, we are well placed to explore the potential of this developing field in our industry.”

In search and shopping for flights, Amadeus is currently working to build a generative AI-powered interactive travel assistant to help users complete a booking using natural language. “A prototype has been built and we are working to integrate the technology with Cytric Easy,” Hedley noted.

Amadeus is also testing the capabilities of assisted programming to generate code and enhance solutions, freeing developers from repetitive tasks and driving efficiency.

Sabre uses AI extensively across various sectors, such as airlines, travel agencies, and hotels.

“We use AI and machine learning to boost revenue, improve passenger experiences, manage premium cabin inventory, and simplify seat upgrade bidding for travellers. Travel agencies efficiently sift through various content sources to recommend the best options to their customers. Hoteliers enhance retail and distribution efficiency to provide personalised experiences and unique services,” the GDS said.

Tom Kershaw, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Travelport, said it was using AI to not only help agents automate routine tasks like refunds and exchanges, but to personalise offers and gain more control with ever-changing pricing and itinerary options for travellers. 

“We’ve used AI to restructure our search and ordering systems to create a fully predictive and intuitive search infrastructure. It is this level of personalisation, elevated by rich, robust data sets and AI-based search that is helping our agency customers better understand what their travellers need, make accurate predictions, and recommend the best trip options.”

Kershaw added that Travelport was using AI for a new Content Curation Layer (CCL) feature that would enhance its shopping and searching capabilities on the Travelport+ platform.

“With the CCL feature, agents will be able to quickly – we’re talking milliseconds – and economically – lower cost per transaction – sort through an increasing volume of supplier options that are extremely similar, decipher these incredibly nuanced options and then curate and elevate the most relevant options for travellers.”

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