Ai Editorial: Focusing on collaboration in connectivity across travel verticals

First Published on 24th August, 2018


Ai Editorial: IATA’s NDC standard and ONE Order for product service delivery have an opportunity to partner with OpenTravel to be driven more holistically by working in conjunction with other verticals, asserts Matt Blackmon, OpenTravel Board Executive.



Undertaking one travel trip tends to involve offerings from various suppliers/ intermediaries, featuring ground transportation, flying with an airline, accommodation, car rental, tours etc. Even though travel e-commerce players have been expanding the basket of their offerings (for instance, airlines not only offer a seat and air ancillaries, but also offer other travel products), there are still gaping holes that need to be taken care of across the planning, booking and consumption phases of any travel journey.


And for this various travel verticals jointly need to find a way to streamline the entire experience.


“No one entity owns the customer today. The industry needs to look at a traveler’s journey holistically,” recommends Matt Blackmon, Client Solutions Architect, Switchfly and OpenTravel Board Executive.


Posing a pertinent question, Blackmon asked: Even as airlines are looking at modernizing their retailing and distribution capabilities via IATA’s New Distribution Capability, can the same standard be used for booking a hotel room? “NDC is an airline-specific standard. At this point one cannot sell a hotel room with NDC. OpenTravel’s Hotel 2.0 electronic message structure interacts with NDC as witnessed at hackathons.” Blackmon pointed out that the  NDC standard and ONE Order for product service delivery have an opportunity to partner with OpenTravel to be driven more holistically He mentioned that the travel industry needs to focus on maintaining interoperability for disparate systems in all segments of the travel industry.



Blackmon highlighted that OpenTravel diligently assesses the impact of every travel vertical in the journey of a traveler and has impacted the speed to market for this not-for-profit association, which publishes specifications twice a year. “OpenTravel, hotel industry associations (HTNG,HFTP etc.), IATA…all the bodies need to work together, in conjunction, and OpenTravel can leverage it’s 20 years of expertise of evaluating the process of interoperability and streamlining connectivity so that all business partners thrive. Airlines are evaluating the messaging protocol/ interaction and assessing how it would work in sync with other verticals in this industry. IATA NDC and OpenTravel are working together to find opportunities of doing just that so and evaluating  cross-standard synergies.”


Making it happen


There are a couple of areas that must be focused upon for this kind of industry-level collaboration to work.


·          One would be how to pass personal information of a customer in a secure manner.


“OpenTravel has discussed exploring the option of blockchain technology with multiple organizations across verticals. Not only for payments, but also for passing personal or storing information about a customer via smart contracts (to govern the access to such critical information). A key development going forward would be the participation of various associations, representing various travel verticals,” mentioned Blackmon.


·          Second, what sort of information can be shared among two suppliers that mutually benefit both in terms of servicing the customer (and even in a cross-sell for monetary gains)? At the same time, how to ensure that the comfort level of a supplier as far as sharing of critical data (for instance, 1st party data or data that contributes in working out a profile of a traveler) isn’t disturbed?


Blackmon pointed out that if an itinerary has several suppliers, then how can the data be shared to ensure value is added to the entire journey of the trip. “As an industry, we need to look outside of our own verticals and be open to sharing information to deliver a superior passenger or guest experience,” he said. “If you have a travel product/ service on ONE Order, can you see other (travel) products as a supplier?” He also underlined that areas pertaining to where data is being hosted and who all can have access to data are areas that need to be considered as part of the ONE Order initiative.


Owning an experience


As of result of such collaboration, the travel industry can look at owning the experience, rather than owning a customer in a fragmented manner.


“The travel industry if compares itself with the likes of Amazon or Uber, then it needs to learn how to market, personalize and create experiences. That’s what the latest generation wants. Uber capitalized on an opportunity that was around differentiating the interaction and elevating the experience in transportation. The industry should own the experience, akin to what Amazon focuses on. Amazon doesn’t own the distribution for everything that is has to offer. Rather it manages to push economies of scale and scope not only within their proximate company’s boundaries, but outside of it, too, by capitalizing on digital channels to build an ecosystem of buyers, partners and suppliers.” 


By Ritesh Gupta



Matt Blackmon, Client Solutions Architect, Switchfly and OpenTravel Board Executive, is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Mega Event Asia-Pacific (Ancillary, Loyalty and Co-Brand Conferences) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand (28-30 August, 2018).


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