Can the latest dip into the global hotel ID swamp work?
The Travel Technology Initiative recently announced the launch of TTIcodes, an initiative to create “the definitive listing of properties” core information.
Such details would include name, address, postcode or zip code, contact number plus the primary brand/chain ID to which each property belongs, according to the TTI.
TTIcodes, chairman Peter Dennis says, will solve the “de-duplication nightmare faced by every travel company that takes several bedbank feeds,” saving travel companies, generally tour operators, time and effort.
What a swamp the TTI has waded into!
A unique identification number for every hotel worldwide has gone from being a nice-to-have idea when there were less than a dozen distributors worldwide in the 1980s, to a must-have 25 years later, with the explosion of distribution channels and points-of-sale, and the increasing sophistication of search.
But it’s not easy. As a past director of data for a worldwide hotel company, I can tell you from experience that each of our hotels had the following:
- Multiple “unique” ID numbers in their property management/reservations systems
- One for every GDS
- One for every OTA/bedbank/wholesaler
- One for every switch
- One for every major tour operator
- One for every representation company
- … plus a few others I’m sure I’ve deliberately forgotten.
In today’s environment, add commission payment processors and gateways, direct connect partners, channel management tools, local booking services and DMOs, not to mention Facebook and TripAdvisor, and you’ve got a massive identification data headache.
Managing these multiple identification numbers was hard enough on hotels, but it has been even harder on distributors because of the multiple points of sale a distributor might serve – GDS, OTA, TMC, switch, etc. – so distributors had, and still have, the unenviable task of creating endless mappings from hotels to points of sale and back for both booking and commission reconciliation.
The search for a unique hotel identification number is an old one. A written proposal was floated in 2002 by Hsyndicate outlining the commercial case for such an initiative, and was championed by Worldwide Payment Systems, a Spain-based commission and payment processor serving the hotel industry and travel agencies.
The business pain was to better track, assess and distribute agency commission payments through the establishment of a “unique global identifier”, a hotel equivalent to the IATA travel agency number.
The Hotel Electronic Distribution Networking Association (HEDNA) agreed to support the initiative and committee work began in 2006.
In the interest of full disclosure, OpenTravel Alliance was originally approached to host this work but as it didn’t fit into our charter, we demurred. We have, however, had a seat on the HEDNA committee since its inception.
By 2010, the UGI committee in HEDNA had not made substantial progress, so HEDNA brought the initiative to the Hospitality Technology Strategic Initiatives Council (HTSIC), an informal affiliation of hospitality organizations whose work includes technology (including HTNG, AH&LA, HFTP, HSMAI and OpenTravel amongst others).
HEDNA wanted to enlist the other organizations’ support to leverage their abilities and members to move this project forward.
HTSIC believes that for a true global identification number program to work, hotels must be able to control the data.
The data does, after all, reflect the property information from flag to owner to operator to address to website to proper name, and can extend to history of the property (previous names, flags, etc.), and who better to own the data than, well, the owner?
And with the quickening sophistication of search algorithms and the aggressive move of search companies into the travel industry (see Google acquisition of ITA Software), it’s becoming imperative that a single “master” identification code exist.
But this isn’t some boring B2B problem. This directly affects consumers.
I recently had to go to Brussels for a meeting, and I found a hotel with a great location and decent reviews.
But I found it listed by three different but very similar names, with three pins at the same address on the Google map. Why?
Because Google was pulling information about the hotel from three different sources. This is confusing for the consumer and endlessly aggravating for the hotel operator.
TTIcodes is a white label of a product that already exists from GIATA, a Germany-based content provider for travel agencies, tour operators and hotels, and was created to provide a valuable solution for tour operators who struggle with access to updated hotel information.
According to GIATA CEO Andreas Posmeck, GIATA will be “responsible for the management, update and distribution of the codes. GIATA is continually researching and updating property information & more importantly cross referencing property information between its master property catalogue and the operators’ systems”.
While this initiative may serve a clear commercial and simple need for tour operators, it’s less clear that TTIcodes will address the larger problem faced by hoteliers – the ability to fully control information about a given property across multiple distribution channels and points of sale.
Nibbling at the edges will work in the short term, but kudos is due to TTI and GIATA for broaching a solution that appeals to at least part of the travel industry, and putting it into the market.
But for hotels and distributors, the TTIcode is just another number to add to the list.
Valyn Perini is a contributing Node to Tnooz an experienced travel professional with more than fifteen years in operations, sales and marketing, systems, consulting, and software development in the hospitality and travel industry.
As chief executive of the OpenTravel Alliance, she oversees the operations of the organization, including developing and executing strategies to reach the goal of standardized electronic distribution of travel and traveler information.
Her travel career includes stints with InterContinental, Westin and Swissôtel, with PricewaterhouseCoopers as a travel technology consultant, and as the director of product strategy for Newmarket International.
Originally from Atlanta, Valyn now lives in Boston.