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Monday, 1 February 2010

OMG. TMCs, TLAs and APIs

The travel industry is full of TLAs – three-letter abbreviations. Sometimes when you read an article in an industry magazine, you need to keep a glossary beside you just to keep track. You probably have an SLA with your TMC – which might be HRG, BCD, FCm – and another with your HBA – possibly Expotel or NYS.
Both the TMC and HBA will use a GDS to make their bookings and, increasingly, those bookings are made online, through an SBT.

New TLAs are cropping up all the time. Another one that is starting to make an increasingly regular appearance in the news is API and it is one that is going to become increasingly important in the future.

API stands for application programming interface which sounds very techie but is just a way for two different pieces of computer software to talk to each other. The API usually consists of a set of instructions on the form in which data will be shared and how the two pieces of software will initiate a conversation.

The general public is coming to learn more about APIs through social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook. APIs allow you to update your Facebook status and have it updated at the same time on Twitter. APIs also help people develop what are called mash-ups on the web. For example, there are websites you can visit where pictures are pulled in from the photo-sharing site Flickr and overlaid on top of a Google Map showing where they were taken. An API has made this possible.

In travel, APIs are what allow no-frills airline easyJet to put its fares on the GDS. They are also what allows our Hotel Booker range connect directly with the hotel inventory of Travelodge and Premier Inn.

We also use APIs to allow travel management companies to incorporate our hotel booking technology into their own self-booking tools. It is the API that makes the process go smoothly and appear seamless from the perspective of the booker.

But we are not stopping there. One of the most innovative things we do as a company is the settlement related to these bookings. This raises the exciting prospect of creating not only an API that handles booking but also an API that handles settlement.

A settlement API allows travel management companies and other travel suppliers to handle the booking themselves – and that could be of anything from a hotel night to a no-frills airline or train seat - and then hand over the payment and reconciliation element to Conferma. That’s very smart. OMG, as you might say in the world of TLAs.

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