The evolution of travel technology certainly moves lightning-fast. Around 2013, when I took up my position at Expedia Partner Solutions (then Expedia Affiliate Network), I came into early contact with some of the first start-ups who specialized in building travel tech products for third parties. Many travel companies were stretched for tech resources – however, by simply outsourcing complex tech development they instantly could have more resources to focus on marketing and customer service; previously this had been the preserve of larger technology SaS providers, and witnessing smaller players move into the territory truly was an exciting development.
Initially though the implementation still was often crude. Interface response times were typically above 10 seconds, updates were infrequent, mostly unplanned and costly, and neither the buyer nor the provider would always know the quality of them. And the big one: these integration builds were quite often only one-off bespoke jobs – so they were inherently not scalable and became a headache down the road.
Fast-forward to today and the rules have certainly changed: API response times under a second are pretty much essential, documentation/versioning has become standard for development and interfaces are continuously being trimmed down in different ways, including moving from XML to slimmer JSON notation, for example.
And yet despite all these accepted norms and the clear desire for progress, as well as the sprawling ecosystem that has developed in travel tech, there have been limited efforts to define a common quality standard. That’s why in February 2019 we launched the EPS Certified Technology program. In a nutshell, this is an elite tech partner program where participants must fulfill specific criteria to participate, raising their own game and focusing on key goals like scalability, constantly updating to ensure excellent content mapping/matching, and making the most of our new API features.
While travel tech had been evolving and progressing organically, we wanted to formalize a standard of excellence in travel technology. One of the aims was to provide clear answers to some important questions in the sector: what are the basic requirements for scalability? What are the essential criteria for a seamless API adoption? The end goal of these questions, among many others, was to answer the ultimate question: what, exactly, is “great travel tech”?
Above all, our goal was to be the first to set the industry standard on how suppliers and travel tech providers (our travel partners) work together.
At Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS) we believe this has changed how the travel technology industry works. The entry requirements for the EPS Certified Technology program push technology partners to dig deeper in three key areas that are vital to the progress of travel tech – and of any successful modern travel business: 1) scalable technology foundation, 2) outstanding matching/mapping and 3) keeping pace with the latest technology updates. Companies who adopt this program automatically raise the quality of their own products and, in turn, then raise the standard on what constitutes “great tech” in the travel industry. And by creating a label for excellence in travel tech, we’ve made it easier for our top technology partners to shout about their achievements and for buyers to be confident in the quality of their technology.
It also opens up new target audiences for those travel technology companies. Beyond the recognition of excellence and investment, the adoption of every feature from our API creates additional product features and solutions that partners had not previously been able to offer.
We’ve already seen success from partners who have adopted these standards. For example, global Majorcan-based technology partner Juniper: the business was able to vastly increase its global footprint in 2019 and is now expanding into Asia. Juniper’s integration has helped it move into this market because our API content is localised in over 30 languages and currencies, and it has focused on mapping this content accurately to provide a great customer experience. It requires effort to keep up, and being elite means investing time and money. It’s not easy, but Juniper has seen great success, doubling its bookings made through EPS since partnering with us under the program.
We also want these partners to use the program as a springboard for growth. So, as well as recognition and investment, it comes with a dedicated approach to co-marketing – we create landing pages and PR campaigns, for example, with our EPS Certified Technology partners. This helps provide a range of new business possibilities for emerging tech players as well.
It might mean local travel agent conglomerates in Latin America being able to offer a better choice to their travelers. It could be TMCs in the Middle East providing a better offering to their business travelers through outstanding tech, or an airline technology company offering a superb cross-sell product. Our tech partners share the same passion as us: offering an outstanding experience to the end travel provider, which means constantly pushing the boundaries of excellent travel technology
Tips on how you can recognize great travel technology
- How many versions of the software are out on the market?
- Are builds here bespoke code branches? – or is a modern hub technology used? How modular is the build?
- How often do they update the EPS API? What do they know about the latest updates?
- How good is the hotel matching? Ask for a test file and run it against your own databases (or use market-leading technology from mapping.works or GIATA). Is it above 90% of Expedia Partner Solutions inventory?
- How do they structure their geography?
- Modern parent-child polygon relationships? (District->City->Wider area->County->Country).
- How many polygons do they use?
- What shape have those? (Natural after defined areas? Or simple squares?)
- How often do they update the solution? Every 6 months at least?
- How often does the hotel mapping/matching get updated in the solution?
- Minimum once a month?
- Best once a week?
- How to they treat room-mapping/rate-level mapping?
- What are their SLAs to resolve issues?