A global distribution system (GDS) for the future of work.

Where and how the world works is changing rapidly. How would a Global Distribution System for Workspace data work?

🤷‍♀️ What is a Global Distribution System (GDS)?

A GDS is a term used to describe the technology that enables reservations and bookings to be made near-instantly between travel service providers and travel agencies or booking platforms. 

In the travel and hospitality sectors Global Distribution Systems now form the backbone that connects and enables commerce between many independent systems used to manage the travel programs of individuals and corporations.

What started during the 1950s with the first GDS in the airline industry, has now branched out into hotels, car rentals, and more. Sabre, the original GDS built by IBM and American Airlines is now used by more than 57,000 travel agencies around the world each day, and was processing more than 42,000 transactions every second at it’s peak (pre-Covid).

The GDS has saved a tremendous amount of time by efficiently automating the distribution of availability, pricing, and other inventory data, and helped travel agents make faster & better-managed bookings for their customers.

👎 Addressing some of the downsides of a GDS.

One of the biggest downsides of a GDS for many organizations is it’s price. Traditionally a GDS charges a high rate or percentage of each transaction, booking, leg, etc.

There’s also issues with huge technical debt. As the idea of a GDS was developed in a time before online direct-to-consumer became possible, the technology was slow to be updated and match the changing needs of customers who wanted to make bookings themselves.

With OTAs (Expedia, Hotels.com, AirBnB), metasearch engines (Kayak, Google, Trivago), and direct booking becoming more popular, the traditional GDS have focussed more on improving and upgrading more legacy systems, than developing new technology.

Although there are downsides, the ideas behind a GDS led to more of a standardized approach across an industry, an increase in revenue for both suppliers and providers, far better yield management of assets, an ability to cross sell and upsell across different platforms, and more.

🤓 What would a Workspace GDS look like?

Workspace data and availability has typically been decentralized and spread across many different management platforms, marketplaces, and other systems supporting the office and flexible workspace industry. 

Ideally a Workspace GDS would solve this challenge by bringing together the benefits of the traditional GDS while also building off of what has been learned, developed and implemented over the last 70 years.

As a result, a Workspace GDS would create an ecosystem that is able to manage the connection and communication of workspace information (inventory, availability, price, health and cleaning standards, Covid-19 updates, leads, bookings, and more) between all workspace management systems, solution providers, and marketplaces. 

Industry-Aligned Pricing 

By working with operators, software providers, brokers, and other industry leaders, a well-networked Workspace GDS will be able to align with the industry from the start, providing the right service with a fair pricing structure that supports the growth of the industry.

Extendible Code (and No-code) Ecosystem

A high quality, regularly updated, and well documented ecosystem is critical to the success of a Workspace GDS, but also will contribute directly to the growth of the entire industry into established and still untapped customer markets. 

Strict Permissions & Privacy 

Workspace owners or operators should be able to maintain full-control over their rates and inventory, selectively approving which platforms to share specific data with. 

Automatic Workspace Data Synchronization

Instead of manually updating platforms, a Workspace GDS enables operators to only have to update business-critical inventory, availability, booking, and more data once. 

At the same time, by keeping all this data synchronized no matter where a change or booking happens, operators and solution providers are able to focus their time and resources on better supporting current and prospective members, clients, corporations, individuals, teams, startups, etc.

Attracting and Retaining Customers

By focusing on the primary mission of connecting and communicating the most important data between systems, a Workspace GDS can support current and future marketplaces, OTAs, metasearch engines, platforms, brokers, and services in the workspace industry. 

🤩 The future of work with a Workspace GDS

Flexibility is crucial for organizations, even more so today. This has lead to even more flexible options showing up in the workspace strategies of firms of all sizes, all across the globe.

Whilst the demand has also increased from individuals seeking flexible workspace, one of the largest untapped markets for workspace providers is the corporate market’s increasing adoption of flexible workspaces.

This opportunity isn’t a secret, and more and more platforms, apps, and brokers are stepping up to connect this demand with available flex workspace supply. However with the explosion of options, both in space and in platforms, the time operators need to invest to ensure discoverability is growing exponentially too. 

In short, there are too many platforms to manage and update, each potentially valuable in attracting a slightly different kind of corporate customer.

By connecting these systems together and then getting out of the way, workspaces can be filled faster with new customer segments, corporates, locals, travelers, and more. 

With Covid-19 and numerous other global and political challenges it’s undeniable that the flexible workspace industry is going to continue to evolve, adapt, and grow as more organizations and people continue working from home, near home, flexibly, remote, and/or from central offices. 

The needs required from the industry will continue to grow, and a Workspace GDS can provide a scalable ecosystem that will reduce risk and be an underlying utility for better data, technology, services, and growth across the entire industry.

All in all, a Workspace GDS will be better for the industry, the operators, and its customers.

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