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Travel APIs: Easing the Turbulence from Origin to Destination
By Matt Minetola, EVP & Global CIO, Travelport
Booking travel has changed significantly over the years. Back in the day, people worked exclusively with travel agents to plan their trips. With the advent of the internet and personal computers, people suddenly had the ability to plan their own vacations and research a variety of cost options. Over the last decade, more travel content has become available online, and airline, hotel, and car rental websites have made it easier for consumers to research and book their own travel. Today, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz and Expedia offer their customers the ability to combine air, car, and hotel, or choose pre-packaged vacations, rather than having customers go directly to each airline, car, and hotel company’s website to piece together a travel itinerary.
With the increased prevalence of mobile devices, the online travel industry has evolved to satisfy the expectations and growing needs and demands of always on, mobile-connected travelers. These consumers expect highly relevant, targeted, and fully bookable search results, as well as total trip costs including any ancillaries (e.g. baggage), which leads to increased demands on travel retailers. Companies that build travel solutions must focus their development efforts on creating user interfaces that are adaptive, responsive, and visually appealing to ensure a good experience for customers using smartphones and tablets.
So, what can businesses do to keep a step ahead of their competitors? Create a better user experience using a basic technology: Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
The travel sector has a wide and varied selection of APIs available. In fact, as of the writing of this article, Programmable Web (http://www.programmableweb.com/), which publishes a repository of web APIs, listed more than 1,100 APIs in the Travel category. These range from airline APIs that provide direct access to airline content, to vacation rental APIs, to APIs that provide programmatic access to ranked reviews for hotels, restaurants, and more.
Today’s consumers of travel content expect an abundance of information and options, and APIs provide companies with the means to meet consumer needs. For example, a company that sells scuba vacation packages may use APIs to provide their air, hotel, and vehicle offerings, and also incorporate an API like the Scuba Tribe API, which shows ratings for dive companies, thus providing comprehensive information that is expected by consumers. Recently, airlines have found a revenue growth opportunity in the sale of Branded Fares (the ability to show what is bundled and not bundled in a fare) and ancillaries. Airline revenue from ancillaries has doubled over the last five years and is projected to reach $45 billion this year. This explosive growth has led to the creation of APIs that specifically address the sale of ancillaries and Branded Fares, which enables companies using these APIs to sell the airlines’ new offerings to their customers.
For any company offering travel solutions, connecting to multiple APIs can be expensive, time consuming and inefficient, especially due to many APIs having few similarities between them. Even airlines have different APIs, based on their business models. Coding to multiple APIs requires additional technical and financial resources for each API release to ensure that the newest version does not break their existing application.
Solving the problem of how to connect to disparate APIs while reducing the cost and effort to upgrade API versions in order to get the most recent and accurate data is where companies like Travelport come in. Travel companies expanding their business or companies moving into the travel space frequently look to APIs to provide content for their own end user application. In a survey of approximately 150 OTAs at Travelport events, the average number of APIs managed by an OTA was seven, with 18% of OTAs managing more than 15 APIs. The prevailing view among OTAs was that utilizing multiple APIs and integrating the content is a challenge, which holds true for any travel company.
Travelport, for example, has developed a Travel Commerce Platform that enables travel providers, travel agencies, corporations, and developers to connect with our data. Our Universal API bridges the gap for companies that want to sell travel, but want more of a “one-stop-shop” rather than a solution that requires coding to many APIs to get the same amount of data for their customers.
By creating a universal API to aggregate content from multiple sources worldwide, including 400+ airlines, low cost airlines, airline ancillaries, 650,000 hotel properties, and over 35,000 car rental locations, we give businesses the opportunity to step into the travel space and access business logic that includes search, pricing, and profiling functionality on one platform, in a shared environment.
In the travel industry, an aggregated API goes a long way towards easing development costs and ensures customers don’t have to limit the number of APIs they consume, based on the time and financial burdens of development. Now, travel companies can code once and get access to data from many airlines, hotels, and car rental providers, which they can use to build their own vacation solutions.
By making it easier for companies to make use of our data through our Universal API, Travelport has made the journey from origin to destination, less turbulent and less expensive.