- In the 1960s, a Global Distribution System (GDS) transformed the travel industry from painstaking manual reservations to fast, electronic bookings.
- The same system can be applied to coworking and flexible workspace to provide easier access for new customers and corporates.
- Recently launched Syncaroo, a GDS founded by Robert Kropp and Hector Kolonas, is doing just that.
Coworking as an industry is being forced to adapt and evolve to a quickly changing business climate as a result of the global pandemic and the changing needs of workers — many of which are now working remotely.
Turning to other established industries can provide clues to the best strategies to navigate this changing climate. The coworking industry has already taken cues from other industries, such as hospitality, to influence and guide everything from customer experience to design.
Another major industry that coworking can learn from is the travel industry.
Compared to the travel industry, coworking is still in its infancy, but is facing some of the same logistical challenges once experienced by airlines and hotels. To solve these challenges, the coworking industry should look to the same tools that revolutionized travel reservations more than 50 years ago. Specifically, a Global Distribution System (GDS).
What is a GDS?
Can you imagine making a flight reservation today that requires your travel agent to make a phone call to an airline, have a conversation about destinations and schedules, then pricing, and a reservation that is ultimately made manually using a hand written index card placed in a box? Until the early 1960s, this painstaking and slow process was the norm, taking an average of 90 minutes to complete.
To solve this problem, a partnership between IBM and American Airlines developed the world’s first GDS. The SABRE, which stands for Semi-Automatic Business Research Environment, is a central reservation system that revolutionized travel technology. By creating a computer network that allowed people to enter data, process reservation requests, and conduct business, reservations could be made all in a matter of seconds, not hours.
Today, travel agents, both human and technological, are able to tap into huge amounts of available inventory for flights, hotels, and car reservations using a GDS, all in realtime.
A Coworking GDS?
If you look at many coworking spaces, especially independent operations with a single location, they still depend upon a very similar manual booking method. Customers must still personally search for a space, contact the space, take a tour, and sign up for their membership. Quickly changing closures and COVID-19 health regulations have added an additional layer of information that does not always reach every communication channel in real time, making it difficult to know if a coworking space is open and available.
Recently launched Syncaroo is one company tackling this challenge for the coworking world.
Founded by Robert Kropp and Hector Kolonas in late 2019, Syncaroo is looking to apply the benefits of a GDS to coworking with the same hypothesis that first led to its development in the 1960s. Namely, if the information available to all booking and brokerage platforms is kept up-to-date in real time, customer-to-space matches can be made faster, therefore helping to drive growth for the flexible workplace sector.
Kropp, in a recent call, described the motivation for developing Syncaroo:
“We’ve evolved from people passing cards around to book seats on a flight. The business models are changing, so the information needs to synchronize with those changes. Manually updating everything is just too hard.”Robert Kropp, Founder of Syncaroo
Having a process to automatically synchronize business information such as open status to pricing across all channels is just one of the potential benefits of applying a GDS to the coworking industry.
Increasing access to customers
Utilizing a GDS can increase access to customers and corporations that are looking for workspace and meeting rooms in the same way that it did for airlines by extending access to a much broader pool of travel agents. This could be very beneficial to independent operators that would not otherwise be able to reach corporate clients on their own.
Additionally, if inventory is kept up to date automatically, the entire sign up and booking process can become more efficient, removing friction for both customer and space operator. From a customer experience perspective, this provides more time for customers to get their work done and enjoy the workspace and more time for space operators to focus on that customer experience.
When demand for flexible workspace as part of business travel resumes, a GDS for workspaces creates the ability of bundling workspace with travel services in the same way it has always been used for airline travel, hotel rooms, and car rentals.
“The more that we can expose workspaces to different groups of customers, the better,” Kropp says. “We’re helping share the right information at the right time in the right way, all synced up so there are fewer headaches across the board.”
More than half a century ago, the GDS quickly became a standard for the travel industry because it solved a problem experienced by airlines, travel agents, and passengers alike. As the flexible workspace industry evolves and adapts to the quickly changing future of work, looking to innovations that worked well for other industry sectors will be a key strategy to ensuring its sustainability and growth.