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The what, why and how of hotel connectivity

03/06/2013| 12:02:02 PM| 中文

During the past several years, the discussion has focused on connectivity in the world of hotel electronic distribution. But what is connectivity, exactly? Why can it sometimes be so annoying and difficult? And what is the benefit that connectivity provides an hotelier?

NB: This is an article by Keith Cotton, vice president, Connectivity Division at DerbySoft Holdings, Ltd. He is a featured instructor at HEDNA U, an educational seminar offered by HEDNA.

Story Highlights

Connectivity is the ability to connect a distribution system and a hotel reservation system for the purpose of transacting business and delivering reservations.

First and foremost, decisions need to be made about how the availability, rate and/or inventory will be distributed.

A successful connection today is less about the messages themselves and more about a company's ability to match business practices and philosophies.

During the past several years, the discussion has focused on connectivity in the world of hotel electronic distribution. But what is connectivity, exactly? Why can it sometimes be so annoying and difficult? And what is the benefit that connectivity provides an hotelier?

In very simple terms, connectivity is the ability to connect two systems together—a distribution system and a hotel reservation system—for the purpose of transacting business and delivering reservations. Generally, the connectivity discussion does not include extranet systems and fax machines because these both are considered manual intervention processes.

But although the simple definition is connecting two systems together, anybody with connectivity experience can tell you it is much more complicated than just establishing the connection.

In fact, the connection itself is the easy part. Standard Extensible Markup Language, known as XML, specifications from associations such as the Open Travel Alliance and Hotel Technology Next Generation are helping make connecting systems much more efficient. For the most part, software developers today already are familiar with the standard specs, and it is just a matter of coding to a particular Application Program Interface. This is not to make light of the effort to connect; it's just that the real "fun" doesn't get started until you take into consideration all the specific variables and essential processes and mapping required to complete the effort.

Push versus pull

First and foremost, decisions need to be made about how the availability, rate and/or inventory (known succinctly as "ARI" in industry jargon) will be distributed. A hotel company must decide if it wants to push ARI to distributors or require a pull (shop) for its system.
 
There are advantages and disadvantages to each. With push, the data might not be quite as accurate when the booking is executed. But if the hotel requires pull, then it must account for huge volumes of shopping messages.

Distributors also must consider how they want to obtain ARI for their consumers, again, with advantages and disadvantages for each method. If the distributor gets a push, then it is required to store immense data on its systems. If the distributor pulls, then it has to account for making its own consumers wait slightly longer for message responses.

Third-party companies often can buffer these systems from the volume of shopping messages and can serve as a consolidation point and mapping solution for both supply and distribution. Hybrid models can be established whereby, for example, some rates or date periods can be pushed while others are shopped. The ARI decision requires a great amount of thought and careful planning.

Array of challenges

Once the determination is made about how the ARI will be distributed, the hotelier then has to consider all the mapping requirements and how to account for the hotelier's particular business logic in a host of unique distribution systems. Room types, rate plans and other fields such as currency-conversion tables, tax calculations and extra person charges all must be mapped to ensure the correct product is being marketed. The rate offerings themselves often become the most complex challenge. Hotel companies that calculate an offering based on length of stay and other total revenue considerations must devise a method to load product into distribution systems that only load daily rates. Keeping these offerings accurate and up to date is an ongoing effort.

There also are issues to consider related to the delivery of the reservations. Many distribution companies strive for booking notifications so they can send the consumer on their way and simply notify a hotel company of a reservation, feeling confident the hotel company will accept the reservation and honor the rate regardless of actual status. But many hotel companies insist on a booking request so that the final availability check and rate are booked at the moment of the booking request. In such cases, very sophisticated processes must be in place in order to accomplish the goal for both sides.

Making a successful connection

A successful connection today is less about the messages themselves and more about a company's ability to match business practices and philosophies. More often the "specs" match but the business rules are very different.

When standard XML specifications were first released, many in the industry predicted the proliferation of direct connects and a struggle for third-party connectivity solutions companies. But in fact, the complexities associated with today's connectivity and the effort required to support numerous connections is creating an environment of opportunity and productivity for third parties.

Yes, as connectivity evolves, it brings a whole new set of issues and challenges. However, the electronic delivery of hotel reservations also has improved dramatically, and the end-consumer ultimately has become the primary beneficiary. The hoteliers and distribution companies benefit as well by offering that product online easily to the consumer and by the cost savings and efficiencies realized through the automation. These benefits certainly make it worth the trouble to connect.

TAGS: hotel distribution | hotel booking
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