London-based travel technology start-up Pathway GDS is providing agents with access to holiday rental inventory to allow them to compete with the likes of Airbnb and HouseTrip.

The firm, the brainchild of former Villarenters.com duo James Marchant and Craig Mankelow, has taken on former Traveltainment UK managing director Andrew Nicholson to grow distribution.

This will be significantly boosted in March when leading trade technology provider Traveltek completes integration with the Pathway GDS system.

Nicholson, who left Traveltainment in October after parent Amadeus scaled down its operations outside of its core German market, said Pathway opens up new earning opportunities for agents.

He said he is in talks with all range of potential agent partners from the very large multi-nationals to small individual agencies, OTAs and tour operators.

“Go back 30 years, travel agents were tailor making holidays by pulling in individual components one by one.

“Now it’s called dynamic packaging but they have been doing it for as long as I have been in the industry, and longer.

“We are now providing a tool to give access to apartment and private home inventory that’s on a par with search for hotels.”

Pathway GDS currently has 45,000 three to five star properties on its books from various suppliers including Interhome, Villa Select, Quality Vilas, Solmar Villas and BelVilla, and hopes to double that this year.

Almost all the properties are bookable online so Pathway XML technology enables agents to search, compare prices and dates and book through a web browser.

Marchant claimed the technology is a first in the holiday rental sector and will allow agents to enter a fast-growing market as well as differentiate themselves.

“The likes of Airbnb, HouseTrip and Onefinestay have done a great job promoting the market. They have opened people’s eye to the fact that people are happy to travel in this way,” he said.

“We do not necessarily see them as direct competition. There is still a huge market out there of people who want to book through a safe pair of hands, who want to book through the trade.”

To offer reassurance all properties offered by Pathway have been checked and, with agents having to offer financial protection under new UK rules for component packages, are bonded.

Marchant said the growth in the holiday rental market has been constrained by a fragmented supplier base and issues with connectivity between supplier and distributor channels.

“We built Pathway to offer a one-stop solution. By connecting once with Pathway GDS, both suppliers and distributors gain access to multiple business partners through one connection.

“The important thing for us is forging partnerships with good quality suppliers with properties that will appeal to the travel trade,” said Marchant.

Pathway is the first release from Gravy Travel Technology, the privately funded firm set up by Marchant after he left Villarenters.

It is offering a number of options to retail partners including an agent desktop and white label. Agents will be able to create PDFs of selected properties and e-brochures for clients.

The service is free to agents with no set up or licensing costs, Pathway making its money from the supplier on a per-transaction basis.

Nicholson added: “We are a pure pay-for-performance model. The whole rationale for the business is to generate incremental bookings for our suppliers and distributors.”

Marchant said the potential market in the UK and US is $85 billion annually with 6.1 million properties potentially available, 3.3 million of which are in the US.

“Even if we just get a small percentage of that there is a lot out there. As the market grows owners will want to hand over the running of their property rental to someone else.

Pathway GDS believes its technology has the potential to stretch to other markets, having the benefit of being a distribution system built for suppliers and retailers rather than airlines.

Nicholson said Pathway could be complementary to the big global players in the sector.

“The GDSs are all trying to add something in to the mix, a hook, to get people to choose them rather than another. We are providing that hook without everything else.

“Most of the announcements from GDSs are about full content agreements with airlines, which helps business travel agents but doesn’t help travel agents when they are trying to sell a holiday.”