Today’s travel ecosystem is unquestionably impacted by technology. From startups to APIs and machine learning, technology is changing the way people book, manage and experience travel.
For travel management companies, operations, supplier sourcing and data management are all made easier, faster and better by technological advancements.
More than anything, APIs are having the biggest immediate, positive impact.
APIs Connected to Open Systems are Changing the World
APIs, or application programming interfaces, are at the heart of the technology trends that are transforming the travel industry. They aren’t new. In fact, APIs have been around forever and they fulfill one simple purpose – helping machines talk to each other.
What’s changed is the ease of connecting to APIs. With open systems more prevalent, the ease of connecting to and consuming data across the travel ecosystem has never been easier.
That reality may be why travel experts interviewed for The Beat’s recent Year in Corporate Travel Technology report ranked APIs as the most impactful tech trend right now.
As a participant in the survey that helped compile that report and a member representing Travel and Transport on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) NDC advisory board, I am well-versed in the technology that is impacting the way we manage and experience corporate travel. I continue to see firsthand how some technologies live up to their promise while others fall short.
More than anything though, I appreciate the efficiency that modern APIs can bring to the travel ecosystem. The sheer amount of transactions that must occur for a simple itinerary to be booked is staggering. If anything, the ease with which the average business traveler makes reservations is a testament to the power of APIs.
How APIs are Impacting the Travel Ecosystem – 3 Examples
Sometimes a picture (or in this case, three) can tell the story of the positive impact of APIs better than mere theory and explanation.
#1 – FlightStats
Travel and Transport uses this product’s API to push real-time trip data to our clients through our mobile app. Travelers can get real-time updates on flights and our travel advisors can use the data to proactively manage plans for travelers in the event of cancellations and delays.
It’s a beautiful example of how APIs help travel managers provide better, faster and more meaningful service to their travelers. In many cases, we’re able to make travelers aware of a gate change, delay or cancellation before carriers do.
#2 – TripLingo
This popular language platform allows business travelers to search common phrases, download a dictionary and speak in a language in which they are not fluent.
Important queries like “where is my car?” can easily be asked and answered, improving the travel experience and making the business trip more effective.
Because no one wants to manage multiple apps on their smartphone, we made TripLingo part of our mobile app and we used an API to do it.
This deep link technology allows a seamless way for our clients to consume all things travel inside of our app. Without any logging in or out, they can receive on demand information in one convenient place.
#3 – Hilton Hotels
Travel and Transport was the first travel management company to launch with Hilton Hotels.
This integration, which was again made possible by APIs, enables us to provide a seamless connection from our app to the Hilton app.
Our clients can access their digital room keys, view Hilton Honors points and more without having to sign in separately to the Hilton app.
Our willingness to invest the time and resources into this technology comes from our core commitment of making travel more convenient and improving the overall travel experience for our clients.
APIs Connect the Dots in an Inherently Decentralized Industry
The travel industry is by nature, fragmented. As The Beat report rightly noted, APIs help connect dots that would otherwise be unconnected in such a disjointed industry.
Through the use of APIs, we are able to get real-time data from suppliers and partners and put that information at the fingertips of our travel counselors, who can then leverage it to instantly see clients’ travel preferences, history and habits.
The result is exactly what you’d expect – a more satisfying travel experience.
How APIs Accelerate Innovation and Deployment of Travel Services
While the connection between APIs and an improved experience for the traveler has been well established, another important benefit to flesh out is on the operational side of things.
From a pure technology standpoint, databases and other technologies have been extremely siloed. Through modernization of technology, data has become more consumable in a more standard way.
The evolution of modern APIs has lowered the barrier to entry, creating opportunities for startups to enter the travel space and create tools, like chatbots, from which both travel management companies and travelers can benefit.
In short, it’s allowed space for innovation to bloom and created an arena where larger travel management companies, like ours, can engage in partnerships with promising startups that provide operational enhancements and advantages to our end users.
Even the GDS has been tapped into by APIs to enable certain content like booking.com, and Concur on the corporate booking travel side, to access data that end users can harness to manage travel plans.
On the managed travel side, where GDSs used to require long strings of cryptic commands, today travel advisors can use modern desktop systems to conduct business, making it easier to train and hire talent.
Wrapping it Up – APIs are a Tech Trend Worth Following
In so many words, APIs are a great example of a technology that is bringing enhanced experiences, product innovation and improved communication to the travel ecosystem.
Not every tech trend holds such benefits.
The real challenge for CIOs and others evaluating technology in the travel space is to pinpoint which technologies will create efficiencies and benefits for your clients and invest in those at the right time to make a positive impact on your, and their, bottom lines.
Michael Kubasik, CTC, is Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for
Travel and Transport, the fifth largest travel management company in the United States, servicing clients throughout the country and around the world.