The technology ecosystem in the hotel space is changing at a rapid pace. In some cases, companies seem to be appearing from nowhere, offering a brand new solution that solves a problem many hotels didn’t know that they had. In other cases, companies with extensive track records in other markets are performing pivots, taking everything that they’ve learned in their history and trying to apply best practices to the travel industry.
While there’s often far more noise than signal, there is a swath of companies, startups and incumbents alike, that are finding ways to help hotels improve their customer experiences. The ones that are most effective understand the tech stack in a hotel ecosystem, and are using APIs to seamlessly connect their offerings to the day-to-day operations of their hotel partners.
An API (Application Program Interface), is simply a set of rules and protocols that establish how applications should interact with each other. Said differently, APIs are the pipes that connect applications across the internet, allowing secure passage of data between companies. Customers don’t see APIs, but APIs are the means by which data is shared. Using an example to crystalize this concept, many hotel websites will incorporate Google Maps into each of the pages dedicated to their properties. This is one basic use of an API. Another common use of APIs has to do with social media. Companies like Hootsuite, which connect various social accounts for organizations, use APIs in order to foster those connections.
Not all API uses are to share data that is customer facing. In many cases, hotels will use APIs to connect the various systems that keep a hotel up and running. For instance, many hotels will connect their data sources, like PMS, CRM or OTA. This can mean collecting data from a guest that booked using an OTA and using that data to remarket to that guest after their stay. We needn’t go too deep down the rabbit hole of APIs, since as an executive, you’ve likely built a quality team of folks who can handle the nitty gritty details; your concern is likely more about whether things work, not necessarily about how they work. The important thing to understand is that if a data sharing process is automated, there’s an excellent chance it’s using an API.