WTM 2012: Lack of industry standards complicates travel, claims panel

The absence of a standard product data regime in the travel industry is making it overly complex but there is little hope that a set of standards can be agreed.

Speaking in a debate on whether there are too many players in the travel sector, panellists from leading technology developers agreed the biggest issue was a lack of standards.

They called for the leisure travel sector, including hotels, car hire and tours as well as the payments sector, to agree a set of standards in the same way that the airline industry has done.

They said this will make sure the various players in the industry can be more efficient in the way they add value to the chain rather than having to duplicate effort.

Jon Pickles, Comtec product director said: “we would love to see standards across the industry. TTI [Travel Technology Initiative] fell short and was never really adopted.

“We would love it [the industry] to be compliant, we do not want to make it hard. If we could use the same interface for every single supplier we would love that, but I do not think it’s going to happen.”

Rob Sinclair-Barnes, Amadeus director of marketing, said: “The job of the technology company is to simplify that whole process between suppliers and buyers.

“Within the airline environment with unbundling we are working very hard to create standardisation because with that comes efficiencies.

“I think the biggest single issue with the industry is a lack of collective forms of standardisation. A lot of these areas need to develop further to where the airline industry is now.

“That’s fundamentally about adding value and to make it as cost effective as possible to connect global suppliers with global buyers.”

Sinclair-Barnes added: “What we do is provide easier standards for innovation. We would like to see better standards in payments solutions, car hire, hotels and certainly tours.

“There is a great opportunity to innovate the front end to provide customers choice and availability.”

David Cabreza, Hilton Worldwide director, picked out payments as one area in which there is no compliance and where suppliers are struggling to meet consumer demands for new forms of payment.

“Our big problem is really about the payments side – getting the cash in through the door. There are probably 70 or 80 different types of payments worldwide, we cannot be everything to everyone.

“We want to offer things like bank transfers or PayPal but at the end of the day we do have to pick and choose which ones you deal with.

“There’s maybe an opportunity for a company to deal with all the complexity for us and we just get the cash the way we want.

“All major companies are struggling with how to deal with getting money in from customers in the way they want and allow them to pay in the way they want to.

“Consumers are demanding all these different ways to book us and that’s natural. Probably the way companies will need to go is decide what areas they want to target.

“You cannot try to accommodate everything otherwise you are just adding more complexity to your business. Complexity in the industry is one thing but having complexity in your business is something you really don’t want.”

Multicom director John Howell added: “It’s about consumer choice. A market with a few large players reduces consumer choice. Anything that damages competition in the market, that’s a bad thing.

“You can go too far the other way. So you need the right number of people so you have a changing market. We do not want stagnation because you have a few multi-nationals.”

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