Amadeus this week will unveil the first components of a new next-generation distribution technology platform for the hotel industry. As a first step, Amadeus has completed the migration of the 75,000 hotel properties that participate in its GDS from a system based on TPF (transaction processing facility) to a Linux platform, Jérôme Destors, deputy managing director of Amadeus' Hospitality Business Group, said. All hotel GDS operations are now running on the open-systems platform.

In an exclusive interview with Travel Technology Update, Destors said the new platform and a new set of technologies, all based on OpenTravel Alliance XML standards, will "help bring the hotel industry into a new era for distribution."

As end users have become used to booking online, the demands on travel agencies to match that experience have become more complex, he said. "The reality is that we need to help agencies to be at the level of the expectations of end users and to offer hotels new ways to share information with agencies," he said. The new platform will give both agents and hoteliers "new means to distribute and sell and merchandise hotels online," Destors said.

"We have nearly doubled the number of hotel attributes by which agents can search," he said. They now number about 100. Agents will easily be able to request hotels that offer high-speed Internet, a swimming pool or other features, and the results will be returned "in the right order," Destors said.

GDSs have always been "very linked" to hotel chain codes or to IATA city or airport codes for hotel searches, which limited search capabilities, he said. The new system will liberate searches from those codes by adding "a lot of ways to search," including simple city names or regions, such as "the south of France." That will make it easier to find hotels in small cities and towns even if they are not close to airports. Search terms can be combined: a hotel in southern France with a swimming pool, for example.

Some of the new functionality, such as the number of attributes available as search terms, will be available to agents who use the traditional green screen GDS, but the full benefit -- and the most innovative features -- will become available with the rollout next year of Hotel Plus, a new user interface for agents that incorporates the best of business-to-consumer selling features but is designed specifically for agencies to maximize sales. The browser-based technology will be fully integrated with the Amadeus GDS.

"This is something very close to our hearts," Destors said. Agents need to be able to sell more than a room or an airline seat, he said. Much of the new interface will be intuitive, he said, but Amadeus also will provide e-training for agents.

For now, there will be no changes in the way hotels work with Amadeus, he said. "But in the future, we want to help them in automating and improving the quality of data. We will bring them better tools to sell their products."

In the TPF environment, Destors said, content was limited. With the new platform, "we can store any type of images and videos and multiple languages with all types of characters. We can reflect the globalization of the business." Next year, Amadeus will introduce a content management platform that will provide a "single point of entry" for mid-sized and large chains to update their rich content across all distribution channels simultaneously.

In the third phase, Amadeus will introduce a next-generation reservations platform will follow. Hotels will be able to centralize multichannel distribution, reservations and content management on one platform. With integrated PMS reservations functions, the platform will offer hotels a single image of the chain's inventory of available rooms.

Amadeus began developing the new platform when it acquired Optims, the French hotel distribution company, in 2005. "Optims brought the know-how of some of the technology," Destors said. "Amadeus brought the knowledge of gigantic architectures and heavy transaction processing."