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Cracking the code for hotel bookings?

February 16, 2012

(Published in TTG 02.02.12)

The Travel Technology Initiative and European Tour Operators Association have teamed up to provide what they claim is a ‘revolutionary’ hotel coding system. Matthew Parsons finds out more

In this age of dynamic packaging, travel sellers are faced with multiple feeds from different sources – each one using a different code for properties.

On top of that, agents need to contend with ever-growing numbers of hotels, and keep on top of changing brands and affiliations.

Is everyone talking about the same hotel? Will clients be checking into the Grand Hotel, or the Hotel Grande around the corner? Are the contact details up to date, or the geo-code (used by Google Maps) correct?

In a bid to end the confusion, the Travel Technology Initiative (TTI) has set up TTIcodes – a new electronic hotel ID scheme – to standardise the way hotels across the globe are identified, and put an end to the duplication of hotels in every travel company’s database.

Peter Dennis, chairman of the TTI, says it addresses the “nightmare faced by every travel company that takes several bed bank feeds”.

“TTIcodes will be important for agencies, operators, third-party aggregators and tourist boards,” he says.

The background
The project stemmed from a TTI forum on mapping in June 2009. Operators asked if there was a geo-coding standard for hotels, while agencies and bed banks asked if unique identifiers existed.

But it is a subject that has been discussed for a lot longer, says Dennis, whose career in the hotel sector spans 30 years. He has worked with chains such as Marriott, where he was part of the team responsible for placing properties on to GDSs.

He has also been part of the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association, which since the 1980s has discussed hotel coding in the US.

Dennis left Marriott in 1997 to set up consultancyTime Communications Group, and in September 2010 became chairman of TTI.

Meet the host
Germany-based content distribution company Giata is managing the database. It was identified as the most suitable “technical partner” as it already houses a database of 200,000 properties, and works with companies such as Tui, Cook and Expedia. Because it works with 20,000 tourism-based companies, it continually maps properties.

However, some critics say such a standard should be open – and free, but Dennis says the cost  is justifiable.

“We needed a host that could manage lots of data, and with geo-coding experience,” he says. “TTI is a not-for-profit body, but there’s a cost to host the codes and a value to them.”

Going live
Following beta-testing with companies such as Holiday Taxis and Destinology, TTI launched the scheme on January 24.

Paul Richer, senior partner at consultancy Genesys, and a member of the TTIcodes Project Group, says there was a lot of enthusiasm at last week’s launch, with the likes of Multicom, Teletext Holidays, Tui, Kuoni, STA Travel, Dertour, Travel Counsellors, and On Holiday Group attending.

Richer admits that TTIcodes might be less relevant for smaller agencies, but adds that if an agent works with a supplier was using TTIcodes, the agent would know they were getting high quality data.

“They would use this service to de-duplicate their hotel availability display – and in the end help consumers get the right holiday, and instill confidence in that travel seller,” he says.

The future of its success depends on the larger players in the travel industry, and Dennis hopes they will embrace the scheme: “Travelport, Sabre, Amadeus each have a different code for each hotel, and I estimate there are about 120,000 hotels in those GDS databases.”

To promote the scheme, TTI will be demonstrating it at the Travel Technology Show at Earls Court, February 7-8, and at its own conferences and forums this year, which are open to non-TTI members.

Having been 30 years in the making, the TTI’s hopes must be high that uptake will be swift from the UK travel trade.

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