Pathway GDS plots distribution growth for holiday rental sector
Pathway GDS is a B2B startup which aims to connect holiday rental suppliers with online and offline travel agents and tour operators.
The business was set up last year to provide additional distribution to suppliers of holiday rental product as well as offer the travel agency community the opportunity to package up properties.
The privately-funded venture is led by managing director James Marchant, technical director Craig Mankelow, both formerly of Villarenters.com and commercial and distribution director Andrew Nicholson, formerly of Amadeus-owned TravelTainment.
Pathway GDS believes there is no competition in the shape of a holiday rental focused technology company offering end-to-end connectivity and say it’s tapping into a market believed to be worth US$85b annually across Europe and the US.
The revenue model for the business is to charge suppliers fee per transaction for any bookings it delivers to them. Pathway GDS says it is not ‘currently’ charging integration fees to suppliers or distributors and there are no monthly fees or licensing costs.
Q&A with James Marchant, managing director, Pathway GDS
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?
Pathway GDS has been launched to improve the connectivity between suppliers of holiday rental properties and travel agents, OTAs and tour operators. Growth in the sector is being constrained by a fragmented supplier base and the difficulty they have in connecting with distribution channels.
We don’t think it makes sense for suppliers and distributors to spend time and money creating multiple unique XML connections and so Pathway GDS offers a one-stop solution. By connecting once with Pathway GDS, both suppliers and distributors gain access to multiple business partners through one connection.
Other aggregators of accommodation don’t offer the breadth of choice – more than 45,000 properties from 3 to 5-star ranging from apartments and cottages to chalets and villas.
And other players in the space don’t offer the ability for distributors to sell the product directly to consumers online. In this way, travel agents, OTAs and tour operators can dramatically increase their product offering in a cost-effective and scalable way.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
For travel agents, OTAs and tour operators, Pathway GDS offers an unrivalled choice of holiday rental properties with 95% instantly bookable online. For suppliers, Pathway GDS offers a no-risk method through which they can connect to multiple distribution channels.
It has been designed and built to work specifically with holiday rental data feeds – this means we can work with varying data formats from suppliers and re-package those to meet the specifications of our distribution partners. All of the content is health and safety checked by suppliers who are also bonded to offer financial protection.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
As a B2B company, our focus is on having conversations with the decision makers at suppliers and distributors. So as well as getting more press coverage which has given us a lot of business, we have a long list of contacts and will be working LinkedIn pretty thoroughly too!
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
Pathway GDS actually looks very much as planned. We have signed up exactly the type of suppliers we had in our original target list and the same goes for the travel agents, OTAs and tour operators. The platform will certainly develop over time but we are keeping those details to ourselves for now.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome (please refrain from using biggest, best or most awesome in your answer)?
We see ourselves as being established as a critical link in the holiday rental sector, not just in the UK and Europe but worldwide. And that position will be based entirely on proving between now and then that we can deliver genuine incremental revenue to our supplier and distribution partners.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The problem is that too many holidaymakers never see the amazing choice of holiday rental properties that are out there. And the reason these properties are never seen is because they are dispersed across a huge number of websites, all competing for that elusive first page of Google. By helping aggregate and then connect suppliers into the distributors, Pathway GDS is going to deliver genuinely new business and therefore help grow the market as a whole.
“The holiday rental market is notoriously fragmented making it hard to research online, let alone attempt to book. A Phocuswright study, published last year, reveals that although consumers primarily use the internet for researching European holiday rentals, they are often disappointed by the lack of online booking.
The report reveals that for consumers, who considered a holiday rental but didn’t take one, finding and booking a holiday rental was the biggest issue compared with booking a hotel. Planning and shopping for holiday rentals were the next biggest obstacles.
The PCW report also shows that about a fifth of European holiday rental revenue came via online channels in 2010, representing a significant opportunity to drive more online. And, the study predicts almost a quarter of European holiday rentals will be booked online by the end of 2013.
The holiday rental sector continues to attract lots of attention with listing sites and other suppliers continuing to join the dots in terms of automation and the search for ways to extend distribution via new partnerships.
As it freely admits, Pathway GDS will need volume to sustain its business model but the team has rental experience and the market is ripe for aggregation.
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Linda Fox is deputy editor for Tnooz. For the past eight years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.
In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.
Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.