Who should hold the bag in terms of API integration?
In my most recent Tnooz post titled “Putting the supplier cart before the distributor horse in travel” I discussed how creating open inbound APIs could help to foster connectivity between supply and distribution and encourage those who are not using online systems to adopt them in order to open up distribution opportunities. In addition to this discussion I also wanted to share my thoughts on who should and should not be holding the bag in terms of the costs of the API integration. Over the years, I’ve been directly involved in the integration of dozens of APIs from providers in and out of the travel space. I’ve worked with over 50 payment gateway APIs, integrated hotel, air, and package booking APIs, mapping, geoip, messaging, and currency APIs. Twenty of those gateways and several of the other dedicated service APIs are now integrated into Rezgo for the purposes of processing payments or providing added functionality for our Rezgo customers. Needless to say, I’ve seen some really good, well documented APIs, and I’ve seen some of the most ridiculous excuses for APIs. What all of them have in common, however, is a philosophy of connectedness. You can’t after all claim to be open to connect if you don’t actually have a method for connecting. For the most part, though, payment gateway, currency conversion, and geoip APIs all do fairly straightforward processes. They are relatively simple in design and provide a very simple (specific) response. In the case of travel, the APIs tend to become quite complex. Selling travel is a complex process, so it’s not hard to fathom that the APIs associated with selling travel are also complex. As a result, they also tend to be top heavy. By this I mean that only the upper echelons of the travel industry have APIs. The large OTAs, GDSes, CRS, and PMS providers tend to have APIs but the small providers tend not to have them (or even know what they are). The outcome is that there are APIs for distribution but no APIs for accessing supply. But do the small suppliers require APIs for the purposes of selling direct to customers? Although most would argue no, I would argue that YES, a good API is required for the purposes of selling direct. Why? Because a solid API allows for rapid development of third party tools that can aid in the direct selling process. In the case of Rezgo, for example, all our front-end interfaces including the white label, vendor/affiliate booking engine, WordPress plugin, opensource PHP booking engine, and the new mobile interface are built on top of our XML API. Our API processes over a million XML requests and responses a day. The majority (95%) are for direct to supplier sales. We also have a number of Rezgo suppliers who have customized their interfaces on top of the XML API or integrated legacy reservation systems with their Rezgo system to manage real-time availability. When it comes to connecting to a distribution channel, however, [...]