Dynamic GDS travel packages with scheduled flights set sales records this year. We are talking with Yulia Golushkova, Director of the GDS Department of the tour operator ANEX Tour, about which directions are in priority, why we see such a “take-off” and whether this trend will continue in 2023.
– Julia, how long has ANEX been offering dynamic tour packages on regular flights?
– Even 10 years ago it was difficult to imagine tours with a flight from global booking systems (or GDS-tours, from the English Global Distribution System), which can be easily booked in one click. But now it's reality.
As a matter of fact, we offered flights on a regular basis to our tourists back in 2013, when ANEX Tour was accredited by IATA (International Air Transport Association) and TCH (Transport Clearing House of Russia). But the basis of our business, of course, remained charter flights, and this was just one of the possible options.
In 2016, we realized that the work on charter flights is as streamlined as possible and global changes in technology are not expected. It was necessary to go further and develop the regular transportation department, which provided new opportunities and required a lot of attention, knowledge, ideas.
Therefore, we created a new department – GDS. At the beginning of work, all applications were processed individually manually: the first connected flights were to Turkey, Spain, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates. Now, of course, everything is different – we have a full-fledged dynamic bundling technology.
– Let's talk more about what dynamic GDS-tours are?
– Of course. Dynamic GDS-tour packages involve booking a tour on regular flights of any airline that operates flights to the desired destination for the tourist. The package price is calculated online.
An important advantage of dynamic GDS tours is a huge range and the ability to choose any departure date, airline, fare. For example, cheap non-refundable or, conversely, the most comfortable with the possibility of a return if travel plans may change, without luggage or with luggage, etc. You can also fly at special tour operator fares.
In addition, in GDS tours, tourists use the connected airline loyalty programs – we can always add the necessary note to the ticket reservation. That is, this is an opportunity for tourists to fly with their favorite carrier and at the same time use ANEX Tour products. And for travel agents, this significantly expands the possible pool of products for working with clients with different preferences.
– What is the share of ANEX Tour's total bookings of tours with a flight taken by GDS tours in the last three years? How did she change?
– The share of dynamic tour packages with tickets from GDS systems has grown seven times over the past three years. In 2019, with an extensive charter program from Russian cities, the share of GDS tours was small, about 1%. But there were many directions.
So, for example, by the end of 2019, 48 countries were available for booking on regular flights from ANEX Tour, among which are Brazil, Germany, France, Indonesia, Mauritius, Panama, Korea and other destinations for which there were no charter flights.
The year the pandemic began, 2020, made its own adjustments, but we can say that it was at this time that a new stage in the development of sales of tours on regular flights took place. We were actively selling packages in Russia, and the GDS format turned out to be very popular here. In addition to the usual GDS tours, the service of booking only air tickets for any available flights to selected destinations has become popular.
only 24 countries.
Due to the closure of a number of countries and the restrictions that have arisen in 2022, we have GDS tours available, including blocks on scheduled flights, to 31 countries, and their bookings already account for 7% of all our sales.
– Did the share of dynamic packages with GDS grow gradually, or was there some kind of sharp peak?
– The peak is now: we see a sharp rise in the popularity of GDS this year. So, if we compare 2019 and 2021, the number of sales increased by only 47%. Many? It seems that yes, but comparing 2021 and 2022, we see an increase in applications for tours on regular flights already by 6.7 times. And this is at the end of November: the year is not over yet. By the way, we also see a very bright increase in demand for air tickets purchased through a tour operator: in comparison with 2019, their demand has grown more than 10 times.
– Block transportation is after all, technically also GDS-tours? Do you have many blocks this year?
– Yes, of course, block transportation is also included in the general concept of GDS – after all, flights are regular.
Let me remind you what is the benefit of a tourist from block GDS transportation. Ordinary air tickets in a dynamic package are “pulled up” with the current price at this particular moment – this price has a “time limit”: the period when this price is valid. If during this period the tour with a ticket is not paid, then the cost may change, sometimes very seriously.
In the case of the GDS-block, the prices for air travel are not dynamic, but fixed: a tourist can book a tour and pay for it, say, in two days: the price will not change (and a ticket in free sale may rise in price during this time).
In 2022, we took blocks of seats on flights to the most popular destinations: UAE and Turkey.
– What are the most booked destinations in 2022 with air transportation on scheduled flights from GDS systems?
– Now in the total volume of GDS bookings, the leading place is occupied by Russia with a share of 27%. In general, we can say that most of our package offers for domestic destinations are presented on regular flights, and we have seen an increase in the number of applications in Russia over the past three years.
Turkey with a share of 25%. Next come the Maldives – 15%, the UAE -10% and other countries.
– What do you see as the main reasons for such a sharp surge in GDS bookings- tours in these areas?
– The growth of GDS bookings is certainly associated with a shortage of tour operator air transportation – both in quantitative terms and due to the limitations of the geography of departure itself. In addition, there is a certain percentage of tourists who prefer to travel only on regular flights or only with foreign carriers.
– In which directions is the average GDS tour highest this year?
– Comparing the average bill by destination is certainly difficult, the reason for this is dynamic pricing on regular flights. Demand often directly affects the cost of a ticket to a particular country.
The minimum average check for a tour in 2022 was 600 euros (a tour package with a regular flight to Cyprus). The maximum average check for GDS tours to Mauritius is 9211 euros.
– Are GDS tours actively bought for the New Year 2023? In your estimation, will the growth trend in sales of dynamic packages continue next year?
– The most popular destination for GDS tours for the New Year is, of course, Russia – people go on vacation to Krasnaya Polyana, to the seaside cluster of Sochi, Sheregesh, to the North Caucasus . If we consider foreign destinations, Tanzania (Zanzibar Island), Seychelles, Maldives are well sold for the New Year on GDS transportation.
Regarding your question about the prospects for 2023, we assume that the share of GDS bookings in Russia and Abkhazia will be quite significant in 2023, and most likely will at least remain at the same level. In foreign directions, everything will depend on the development of the geopolitical situation. If there is an increase in the volume of tour operator traffic and an expansion of flight programs, the growth in sales of tours with tickets from GDS systems will, of course, slow down. Otherwise, it will continue.
– What are your plans for the development of dynamic packet technology in 2023?
– In 2023, we are planning a block program on regular flights in the amount no less than in 2022. For GDS tours, we will offer new directions, interesting combinations of transportation.
There will also be technical novelties of GDS. I would not like to get ahead of myself, after all, this is a commercial component and the political situation can make its changes. The main thing is that we have offers to the market and we do not stop there.
I will touch on only one of the most interesting news. In the agent's personal account, a technical possibility has appeared to independently change a regular flight in case of early removal of a seat from the time limit with a confirmed application. Technological processes are extremely important in the era of global digitalization, and we try to keep up with the times.
Photo: ANEX Tour