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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Travel-Booking Firm Galileo Sees Growth Opportunities

Galileo International, one of the world's leading travel reservation system firms, has expanded its Russian operations and opened a Moscow representative office.

The company's two global distribution systems - Galileo and Apollo - account for about one-third of all travel bookings worldwide, company officials said this week. Global distribution systems are an electronic booking one-stop shop, with airlines, hotels and car rental services all accessible - and bookable - through a computerized booking service.

Galileo services had been provided in Russian by two dealers, EastLine and Galileo-Rus, but Galileo International decided to start providing services directly from June this year.

With the success of that move - and the firm's strong belief that Russia represents one of the last frontiers left undeveloped in the travel industry - the decision was made to open a Moscow representative office.

"With Galileo now present in 107 countries coming to Russia was a logical extension," said Michael Foliot, a senior vice president at the firm.

Playing down fears of turbulence connected to the weekend's State Duma and next year's presidential elections, Foliot said Galileo has long-term plans to stay in the country.

Galileo will be hoping to overtake current leader Amadeus on the Russian market. Amadeus, present on the Russian market since 1992, claims to have about 200 Russian travel agencies on its books.

"It's obvious who the market leader is," Amadeus general director Sergei Ulasevich said.

However, while Galileo-Rus director Alexander Zakupen admits that his firm has some ground to make up on Amadeus, he also says that his firm is less worried about Amadeus than about the Gabriel airline booking system.

Created specifically for airlines, Gabriel is a complicated code-based system requiring special training for agents. It is still widely used in Russia as many companies, including Aeroflot, still rely on it.

"Most of our clients switch from Gabriel or Amadeus to Galileo," Zakupen said.

Some 80 agencies have started using Galileo over the past year, Zakupen said.

Galileo International has so far invested some $1 million in Russia, Foliot said.

To attract more clients Galileo has been adjusting its back- and mid-office software to Russia's special conditions. A local ticketing program called GalileoPrint enables clients to issue tickets for Russia's 28 airlines, a major plus in a country where travel agents have long had difficulty issuing tickets for most airlines other than Aeroflot.