Starting 1 October, China will relax its regulations and allow foreignÂ global distribution systems (GDSs) to help Chinese travel agents issue tickets for international flights.
Up until now, China’s travel agentsÂ had to rely only on the state-run GDS,Â TravelSky.
Foreign airlines will also now be able to use GDSs to distribute their airfares to travel agents in China. China’s domestic airlines will not, however, have this optionÂ regarding computerised reservation systems (CRS).
Many GDSs already hadÂ partnered with state-run Travelsky on hotel content, and those relationships won’t change for now.
The new regulations from theÂ Civil Aviation Administration of ChinaÂ (CAAC) were announced late last week.
In major cities, computerization is fully underway, though Internet-based solutions are nearly non-existent. Outside of major cities, most of China’s travel agents still use paper and carbon-paper to process transactions.
The opportunity to help agencies switch to technological solutions is great.
Amadeus plans its moves
To take advantage of the liberalization of the market, Amadeus ChinaÂ plans to roll out products for local travel agencies.
Its sales pitchÂ will focus heavily on streamlining accounting procedures and strengthening credit line control.
Products will be sold as sparing Chinese agencies from having to memorize long commands to book flights and issue point-to-point fare tickets, one of the burdens local agents face.
Amadeus China has appointedÂ Bart Tompkins as managing director, who will be based in Beijing to overseeÂ Amadeus’s expansion into the China market as a GDS.Â Tomkins previously handled market launches in Japan, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
Sabre, Abacus, and Travelport respond, too
“These new regulations are the green light that many airlines, agencies, suppliers and technology companies have been waiting for, and we expect to see the industry evolve as new travel services become available.
Sabre has a considerable presence in China as the technology partner to many Chinese carriers, and partner to TravelSky for hotel content.
We will now work closely with our travel partners including Abacus, to bring new travel shopping, pricing, mobile and distribution capabilities that support Chinaâ€™s rapidly growing tourism industry, their prosperity and success.”
Abacus International, which is Sabre’s partner in Asia, already hasÂ strong partnerships with Singapore Airlines, Dragon Air, China Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, and serves as distributors of their travel products outside of the Middle Kingdom.
Abacus’s own stable of airlines also includes EVA Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Philippine Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, and Silk Air. It claims a 75% market share of the combined Hong Kong and Taiwan markets
The GDS already has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu — more than its rival GDSs. It is also negotiating deals with local travel agencies, such as Beijing Everlasting.
Travelport is also eyeing China
TodayÂ Travelport ChinaÂ said it welcomes China’s “partial liberalization.”
Kurt Ekert, Chief Commercial Officer for TravelportÂ said in a statement:
â€śWeâ€™ve developed a number of significant strategic partnerships in the country. This news very much plays to our partnership approach.
â€śBy working closely with CAAC and our partners, including TravelSky, weâ€™ll now plan how to heighten our investment and grow our business in line with the new policy.”
Travelport recently announced full content agreements with Air China and China Southern.
NB: Image of Chinese flag on a computer screen courtesy of Shutterstock.