Business Travel Show Europe is the place where
September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
The deal announced earlier this month between Eurostar and Amadeus for the latter to build the train company a single distribution platform linked to all GDSs marks a major step forward for rail.The Gateway solution, using Amadeus' Altea Reservation Platform, will enable Eurostar schedules to be displayed on primary GDS screens alongside airlines' competing services between London and Paris and Brussels. It should be in use by the first quarter of 2007.It will enable travel management companies (TMCs) to compare rail and air prices and give them access to information on seat availability, seat maps, reservations and confirmations.It should be available in the UK and in countries around the world early next year and Eurostar is expecting a significant rise in business.(It will not be used in France and Belgium where Nick Mercer, Eurostar's commercial director, said it would continue to use the "massive" distribution facilities of the national rail companies, SNCF and SNCB.) "It will put Eurostar onto the GDSs where UK agents make the bulk of their bookings. Previously they had to go to a secondary screen for rail. It will make things a lot easier and we think we will get an increase in the proportion of bookings made," Mr Mercer said.Being on the GDS screen will also allow interlining. "10% of our market is made up of bookings made out side Europe. It will mean more partnerships with airlines. A person travelling from Tokyo to London to Paris to Tokyo will be able to book the whole trip using air and rail and air at the same time," he said."It will also be the first time ever that we have distribution in the US corporate market which only uses GDSs and does not have rail booking screens."At the same time, Eurostar is planning another advance which also aligns it with the airlines, e-ticketing."We have a huge project on this and there will be a completely new check-in system at St. Pancras (Eurostar's new terminal in north London) when we move there in autumn 2007," he said.This system will enable passengers to pick up their ticket from machines in the station after entering their PNR or ticket reference number.But this might just be the start of a new era where rail becomes a far more attractive proposition for not only corporate travellers but also for their TMCs.The old ELGAR system for rail bookings in the UK, which is separate from the GDSs and requires a trained operator, is being phased out next year. All four GDSs, Amadeus, Sabre, Galileo and Worldspan are working on replacements with Stephane Durand, Amadeus's UK managing director, saying it is for them a "top priority."The new booking system, will, like Eurostar's, be fully integrated with the GDSs, again allowing the comparison with air prices.But the development is not likely to stop there. Mr Durand and Graham Nichols, Worldspan's vp and general manager EMEA, both see eventual software which will display all European train companies on the screens with airlines. The disparity of the various train companies, especially in the UK, presents a problem but is one that the GDSs seem confident they can overcome. "Rail is critical for us," said Mr Durand. "We make 60m rail reservations per annum in Europe. The majority of what the travel agents do in Europe is rail. It is not only important to our service to travel agents but we also want to move rail to the next level up, a pan-European solution. That is the ultimate goal."But it all begs the question 'Why has it taking so long?' especially when growing numbers of business travellers are choosing rail over air both for convenience and environmental reasons and companies are actively encouraging their travellers to go by train where feasible.It is an argument Mr Mercer is quick to dismiss. “The distribution for rail companies is horrendously complex. The systems are very different. Airlines have a system which as designed to link in with the GDSs,” he said."We have had to do a lot of work to make the rail environment talk to the air environment. A train has 18 coaches but an aircraft has, in effect, one. There has been no lack of enthusiasm. It is just that the distribution system is very different."90% of rail tickets are bought at the station but air tickets for an international journey are bought in a different way. It was through agents but the Internet has made a fundamental change. With rail, there has been less pressure to change. "It is not surprising that we are the first rail company to move in this direction. The business model makes much more sense to us. The logic to change for national train companies is far less compelling."
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