Tackling the Problem of API Chaos in the Travel Industry

By Stu Waldron

Stu Waldron is the chief technical advisor for OpenTravel and has decades of experience integrating numerous suppliers into the API ecosystem.

OpenTravel is measuring the level of API chaos in the travel industry and we are looking to other participants to help us draft a scope of the issue.

I myself have worked at suppliers, GDS, and tech companies and have witnessed the millions in development and operations costs due to API chaos. Despite message standards, it’s rare any two suppliers are consistent in their use of message-level data elements. That is, they redefine for their own purpose an existing element in a message so they can avoid adding a new one. What may be viewed as a quick fix has instead added costly complexity that has stifled future revenue opportunities.

With each supplier, the order of a workflow from shop thru payment and fulfillment varies. The rules constraining the fare or price provided in a shop response assumes the API consumer somehow already knows what they are. By that I mean in order to work with a supplier they have access to rules by some means other than an API call. Any consistency in APIs from a supplier I have ever experienced was due to the suppliers in question were hosted on the same backend system. However, even then, the suppliers retailing and/or revenue management solution caused differences.

Through conversations I have had as a technical advisor to OpenTravel I know many have witnessed all this and more from various perspectives. The challenges now are how do we narrow the scope of the problem:

  1. How do we estimate the number of APIs in use in the travel industry?
  2. How do we quantify the level of uniqueness of these APIs to arrive at some measurement of API chaos?
  3. How do we put a number to the cost of that chaos?

The purpose of this analysis is to project the possible benefits of various interoperability efforts across travel versus the cost of adoption. There are proven solutions to much of the chaos but they don’t implement themselves. A related goal would be to show where there are new revenue opportunities as a result of better interoperability. This is important as there are a number of providers in the industry that have a business model based on monetizing dealing with the current chaos on behalf of others. New revenue streams would help in their transition.

Join the conversation with OpenTravel as we work on bringing clarity to the scope of complexity that exists today so we may focus on solutions that benefit all participants in the travel ecosystem by reducing costs and lowering the time to market for innovative revenue opportunities. Please add your comments to our LinkedIn group.