Is There a GDS App Store?

App StoreThird party software developers don’t get enough credit. They make a lot of fantastic apps and have made quite an impact on the technology market as a whole. Just look at your app store and browse the thousands of legitimate 3rd party apps that have been created and you will not be able to deny the impact third party developers have had. But where do they stack up in the travel industry? Do third party developers have any type of role in the travel market? Are there any factors out there that inhibit their contribution to the innovation of travel technology?

If you asked somebody in the tech travel industry who dominates the technology infrastructure then you might get an answer like GDS (Global Distribution System). GDS has an oligopoly on distribution and has also been able to to control third party access to their core systems. All of them have published APIs based on XML as well as third party developer programs but the difference is in the process and control. Even Apple’s App Store (considered the strictest one) has a significantly lower barrier of entry than any of the GDS third party programs. Obviously the GDS need to protect their core functionality and opening up their API freely to the market could definitely cause an increase in traffic without any associated revenue.

This could also impact overall performance of the system. Sales teams with the GDS that are responsible for signing up 3rd party developers require significant investments of around $20,000 to $40,000 on average. And then when it is all said and done, the ability for a third party to innovate using the GDS is continually constrained by the business practices of the GDS. Each of the GDS have launched new web-based agent desktops that have the potential to open up the market for easier access to 3rd party apps albeit if the GDS decide to open up to 3rd party developers.

Of course, innovation can happen outside the GDS. The very influence and existence of ITA software proves that innovation is possible. However, even the people at ITA will tell you that when they initially launched their Orbitz app back in 2000, dealing with the GDS was a complex and cumbersome process. Many people are wondering whether or not the pending Google/ITA acquisition will change the nature of travel innovation. This acquisition presents another problem for 3rd party development, particularly if Google/ITA decides to open up their API freely to the 3rd party community like they did back with Google maps.

Needless to say it is tough for 3rd party developers in the tech travel industry to get all the core travel data they need with such harsh restrictions from the GDS. And if the pending Google/ITA acquisition goes through then we may have more problems for third party developers than they need or more then they can handle.

Source: Travel Technology

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