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After 28 years, why move GDS?

21/02/19 | Inside Travel Places, News

 

It’s a question that our staff have definitely asked us, and one that we have had a lot of internal discussions and endless meetings about but it’s a decision that we came to 12 months ago and one that we pressed ‘go live’ on last month. So, six weeks into a new GDS after 28 years of the same supplier, what have we learnt and was it the right decision?

Our business is unique in many ways. Some of the requirements of the groups we work with are definitely one offs – be it equipment needs, routes or the timelines we work within. We understand and embrace this bespoke service requirement and felt that we needed a GDS partner that was innovative and forward thinking not only for the corporate traveller, but also groups, to allow us to better serve our clients as well as improve ways of working for our team.

After much deliberation we decided to partner with Sabre. There are so many things with the new Sabre Red Workspace that excite us, the capability to book low cost airlines, rich content, real-time availability and the ability to increase personalised service. But what really set it apart from its competitors were the future plans to deliver real time content from NDC channels which will ensure our clients have access to the best fare, all of the time. In addition, a new lodgings content programme will create new possibilities for travellers as well as a Duty of Care programme to give our clients piece of mind as to where their travellers are around the world at any given time.

So, six weeks in – what have we learnt?

Firstly, the 12 month lead time from decision to ‘go live’ was needed. Overall the transition has been as success for us but we heavily invested in internal communications and planning to support our team in the transition from the get go. For most this was a completely new system, so we broke the implementation down into two separate roll-outs to ensure effective training for each department rather than trying to train all our team in one go. We appointed an internal Sabre champion who had been working across the platform six months prior to roll out and understood how to apply the ‘quirks’ of our business to the new system.

Finally, we worked very closely with the team at Sabre to ensure that the migration across was as seamless as possible, with a Sabre team working out of our offices for launch and a representative with us for one month per role out to walk the floor and answer any questions. In addition to these operational elements we understood that this was a cultural shift as well for our team and that change can be exciting but sometimes scary. We made sure that we supported our staff throughout the transition with competition giveaways, internal communications, free lunches and surprise treats throughout the weeks, as well as a big fanfare on launch day. Finally, we understood that it’s not just about ‘go live’, you need to invest in the future to ensure success so we will be employing an in-house trainer for our team and clients, where appropriate, to ensure we continually make the most of all developments and innovations.

So, was it the right decision? For us as a business at this time? Yes. We were able to invest heavily to ensure the best conditions for success. For our clients? Yes – it offers improved benefits for the years ahead. And for our staff? Yes – through simplified solutions, richer content and improved ways of working. It was a huge project and cultural shift but one that drives significant benefits to make it worth while.

Would we do it again? We hope that this partner will provide us a long-term solution but should we need to change again in the future we are in a good place to be able to apply a practical adoption plan.

My top recommendations? Choose a GDS that supports your organisation’s future goals and invest to succeed – be it in house training, internal communications or ways of working. Yes, there will be initial financial investment but it will pay-off in the long term due to more efficient ways of working and improved client benefits.

This article was first published on LinkedIn, 21st January 2019

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