Direct connect has been lurking in the business travel shadows for quite a few years but now it seems that the spotlight is shining squarely on this revolutionary form of content distribution.
The good news is, if you’re wondering exactly what that spotlight is shining on, and why it’s important to you as a travel buyer, then you’re not alone.
Direct connect is a technological innovation and so a lot of the talk surrounding it is weighed down with tech-terms and industry jargon – neither of which are particularly helpful when you’re trying to understand how it will affect your travel programme (and therefore your travel spend…).
To help, we’ve pulled together this short cheat sheet, explaining everything you need to know about direct connect:
What is direct connect?
Direct connect refers to a revolutionary service made possible by an airline or hotel. It means that the travel supplier provides access to their sales systems, which enables third party travel retailers, like travel management companies (TMCs), to search for availability, as well as make and manage bookings.
In instances where such suppliers have applied a booking fee to all bookings made through traditional channels, like the GDS, direct connect technology can enable customers to avoid that fee.
What’s the history of direct connect?
Direct connect really gained momentum back in 2011, during the battle between American Airlines Group (AA) and Sabre, a GDS, over antitrust issues, full content agreements and distribution economics. The airline felt increasingly frustrated with Sabre’s limited distribution of their content and so decided to provide flight information directly to travel agents rather than going through the GDS’s – something that we now know as direct connect.
Sabre and their legal team weathered the AA storm, but then came IATA’s New Distribution Capability. Created to improve the way airline content is distributed, NDC is a suggested distribution format designed to provide access to rich and full air content with a transparent shopping experience, as it allows airlines to sell their fares directly to consumers. This then enables TMCs who have the technology to aggregate content to transform the way air products are retailed to business travellers.
Finally, other airlines followed AA’s suit, with Lufthansa introducing a 16 Euro “distribution charge” on all bookings made via the GDS in 2015. Many in the industry were sceptical of this move, but it meant that Lufthansa no longer had to sign a full-content agreement with the GDS and they were free to start talking to TMC’s who were ready to implement a direct connect solution to their content.
What are the benefits of direct connect?
1. Simple savings
The savings made available to your organisation by being able to access content directly from suppliers are incredibly simple to work out; you just take the number of flights you book, on average, with a particular airline, Lufthansa or British Airways for example, and then multiply this by the booking fee that the airline has applied to all bookings made by the GDS – there’s your saving.
Direct connect solutions will also give your bookers access to any promotions that travel suppliers choose to run, but will allow you to book in a more convenient way that aligns with your overall travel programme.
2. More choice and exclusive content
Having direct access to suppliers’ content ultimately gives your bookers more choice when it comes to choosing a flight or hotel – an increased number of options mean that they’re more likely to find a booking option that suits them, whether that’s in terms of price or style.
An example of this that’s close to home for us is the recent implementation of a direct connect between our online booking tool and Premier Inn, meaning that Click are the first place outside of Premier Inn’s direct channels that business travellers will be able to book the hotel brand’s new hub rooms.
3. Technological innovation
An indirect, but important, benefit of using a TMC who implements direct connect solutions to major suppliers is that they are clearly willing to invest in their technology – something that will ensure that, as their customer, you can expect to have the most innovative, intuitive technology available to you.
It’s also safe to assume that this approach will be applied to other areas of service; perhaps they’re soon to be launching AI in order to help you book your travel? Or a new app that will make your travellers’ lives much easier?
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