NB: This is a viewpoint by Álvaro de Nicolás, CTO Technology for Hotelbeds.
Today’s travellers expect a simple, fast and user-friendly experience whenever they search, book and pay for a hotel. In order to satisfy these demands, the travel industry has responded by finding new ways to work.
Bedbanks in particular have been working in isolation, each one developing its own connectivity, its own content structure and its own booking process leading to different response times and different information.
This makes it difficult for tour operators and online travel agents, forcing them to integrate dozens if not hundreds of bedbank suppliers with no defined standard.
One example of the type of problem this creates is that several bedbanks present cities as destinations in their booking APIs, while other APIs present them as zones within destinations.
A similar situation occurs when the same hotel can exist as a different property if the property address or the name is inconsistent or if the room and board types are described with non-standard terms.
Taking into consideration this multi-supplier complexity, the tour operator or OTA must understand how each property works in order to be able to combine the different XML connections in a single feed. The challenge for the suppliers of the room inventory is to be able to adapt to tour operators’ or OTAs’ demand for flexibility and not rely on unique integrations that are expensive to develop and maintain.
Another challenge that the travel industry faces is to reduce opacity. The vast majority of travel trade APIs are closed systems, reflecting different commercial terms which are generally complex to understand. This means that developers from the tour operator and OTA end-user need to work directly with developers from the bedbank, increasing complexity and making the process harder to manage.
As a consequence, a lot of detailed documentation is required which, in some cases, could include outdated data or incomplete examples. In addition, the integration process requires CSV files, FTPs, Excel and text files to get hotel content which makes the developer’s experience worse and the integration process slow, difficult and expensive.
JSON allows for lighter and faster integrations with more condensed information passed back and forth, which also makes it ideal for mobile apps.
A lighter and faster solution
Traditionally, travel industry innovation has been focused on business models and the customer experience, but rarely has the developers’ experience been taken into account. Other industries such as communications and social media have made integration between applications as easy as possible for the developer. The travel industry likes to work on a better and simpler front-end for customers while ignoring how easy or difficult it would be for the coders to integrate these changes.