Ever since I entered the digital environment, content has always been at the centre of all architectural decisions and design. Remember the terms Web 2.0 and the ever growing ‘Big Data’ when around the mid-noughties social media platforms exploded in popularity collecting masses and masses of information on a daily basis? Every industry was concerned with data collection but most were forgetting to make sense of it.
The same is true in hospitality distribution. In our quest to collate lists of recreations, amenities, facilities, and services along with generic room type and property descriptions, the industry has created 1000s of different naming conventions, field collections and ‘dictionaries’. Even core attributes such as room type names are not aligned across all distribution platforms.
Missing content is harming the guest experience
Of course, there are attempts to unify these approaches though industry standards such as the OTA XML, Disco’s attribute codes, GDS’s amenity and room type code standards, GBTA’s file formats and others. But still today these approaches have not brought together the industry to fulfil the ultimate goal: accurately informing the end user, the customer, the booker, the guest.
Property managers are more often than not required to fill out multiple versions of their content on various platforms, from property management systems to central reservation systems, channel managers to 3rd party extranets, in order to distribute their unique selling points. The result is that content is often inaccurate and incomplete, which ultimately loses business as we expect the consumer or, in corporate travel management, the agent, to make a decision about a property based on minimal information – eventually gambling during the purchase of the product or service.
It’s my view that because of this disconnect, responsibility for content is being passed around like a hot potato. Tech companies argue that content is not their responsibility while property managers claim that completing it is too cumbersome.
How to reach Distribution Utopia
Similar to my previous projects, I see that content is central to what we do and cannot ignore the requirement of making sense of it. To get to the ultimate goal, Distribution Utopia, we first need to address the restraints being faced by property managers, travel agents and ultimately guests.
When I was building a student self-service portal, information was at the forefront of our architecture to engage users and give them a reason to use our systems. When developing distribution structure for a GDS rep co, automation and movement of content between the disjointed supplier systems was at the forefront in order to create a ‘single source of truth’, and therefore enable property owners to take responsibility for their content in one place.
Make it easy for the property manager
Here at Mews, in order to deliver industry-shifting innovations, we first needed to crack the content problem. The difficulty is not so much in how we distribute content. This is a fairly easy, though time consuming, exercise. The multitude of content consumers have follows a different structure, and understanding the various property content types makes it rather cumbersome, though not impossible. It is, however, more about what we distribute.
Focus on giving the property manager ownership over their content while making it so easy to complete and approve it, so that it takes minutes not hours to create a full profile of their property, including all the safety and security features required by travel management companies for compliance. A mixture of industry sources, AI, libraries, and external APIs allows us to build a full and complete profile of a property in minutes, containing all the complexities of information required to complete even a GBTA-style RFP.
This is just the first step in our quest to shift the hospitality tech industry norms, to continue improving the customer experience in hotels, and to allow property managers to engage with their guests.
Josef Lapka | 24 February 2020
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