Jul 17

blockchain and its potential to upend the travel industry

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about artificial intelligence, “big data” and their potential for transforming the travel industry. But there’s another new technology on the horizon called blockchain, and it promises to upend much of the business world as we know it.

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So what exactly is a blockchain? It’s the technology underlying virtual currencies like Bitcoin. It’s basically a living digital business record or ledger that can be updated in near real-time by multiple parties, creating permanent and inalterable records on everything from bank transactions to house and land sales, real-time shipping records and, of course, travel bookings and payments.

While most of the talk about blockchain currently is focused in the payments world, a recent report from IBM says blockchain already is disrupting the disrupters and could eventually eliminate whole sectors of intermediaries.

It’s both scary and exciting stuff, with unknown but potentially game-changing disruptions to the travel distribution world as we know it.

According to a new analysis from the IBM Institute for Business Value, blockchain has the potential to become “the foundation of a robust system of trust, a decentralized platform for massive collaboration.

“With that, intermediaries will be shuttered. Assets that were once dormant can be exploited. Profit pools can shift and be redistributed. News services delivered on blockchain networks can accelerate access and liberate those that were once locked out of efficient value creation to fully participate in an all-in economy.”

So how might this all impact travel and hospitality distribution? According to the IBM report, two new blockchain pilots are already attacking one of the industry’s newest disrupters, the sharing economy.

La’Zooz, being developed in Israel, cuts out the middlemen in ride-sharing services like Uber by establishing a trusted system that allows car owners to share rides with each other. An Austin-based company, Arcade City, is developing a blockchain-based system that allows riders to directly negotiate rates with drivers.

In the travel distribution space, a startup called Winding Tree is circulating a draft white paper about its vision for using blockchain to upend traditional travel agency sales and commission models.

And experts say blockchain also has huge potential to open new avenues for not only new payment and reservations management solutions but also helping travel companies achieve the Holy Grail of truly personalized services and one-to-one, persona-based marketing.

As the IBM report states, blockchain’s “leveling effects across frictions at various levels of the economy are startling. They suggest that transaction costs and enterprise friction could be so greatly reduced that organizations will be transformed in ways not yet imagined.”

In other words, this is a space we should all be watching very closely.

– CEO Toni Portmann




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May 23

good translation key to staying in global marketplace

In our last few blogs, we shared insights on the content conundrum and the challenges of communicating hundreds of different and often confusing content entries about hotel rooms and amenities across the hospitality distribution chain.

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While those issues have been vexing the industry for years, they become exponentially more complex when it comes to translation.

Translation is difficult to manage. It’s costly. It’s difficult to synchronize when you bring on new products. And many ad hoc language translation decisions are made with little or no control over language quality.

But going global is no longer optional. And to stay competitive, hotels need to be communicating in multiple languages. Many still aren’t, however, and for many reasons.

Translation is hard. And study after study shows that if you do translations, they must be not only highly accurate but also incorporate multiple local colloquialisms.

Yes, more and more people across the world speak English as our economies and everyday lives become increasingly intertwined. But research shows that when it comes to internet shopping, they want to do business with websites and mobile apps in their local tongue.

According to the research firm Common Sense Advisory, 90 percent of online users choose a native language when available, 78 percent are more likely to buy from a site in their own language and 60 percent of online shoppers in Japan and France won’t buy from a site that isn’t in their native tongue.

Those are powerful figures, and ones that underscore how much revenue you probably don’t even know you are leaving on the table if you’re not using a good translation system or are reducing your language offerings because they are too costly or difficult to manage.

That’s why we have been aggressively focused here at DHISCO on creating DHISCO Translation Services, which leverages human translation in a synchronized workflow. We use native speakers to make sure the translations are not only correct but relevant for different regions. And that’s augmented with the latest in translation technology with customizable workflows that enable hotel companies to test new languages before they launch into new markets.

DHISCO Translation Services takes a pragmatic approach to these challenges. It allows hotels to translate their content once across channels and devices, enabling them to optimize their translation resources and budget while reaching more people, quickly, with just the right content.

After all, the only thing worse than not having a website in the language of one of your target markets is having bad translation. In the end, studies and experts have shown that the long-term losses of poor translations far outweigh the costs of doing them right.

– Anne Cole, vice president, content

  Nine languages with country/market selection

  Language Detail
  Chinese (Traditional, Taiwan)
  Chinese (Simplified, PRC)
  Chinese (Traditional, Hong Kong)
  Chinese (Simplified, Singapore)
  Dutch (Netherlands)
  French (France)
  French (Canada)
  German (Germany)
  German (Switzerland)
  Italian (Italy)
  Japanese (Japan)
  Portuguese (Portugal)
  Portuguese (Brazil)
  Russian (Russia)
  Spanish (Spain, International Sort)
  Spanish (Latin America)
  Spanish (International)
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Apr 24

abbreviations are not a content strategy

Looking for a hotel room with “polacc?” Or maybe you want to make sure it includes “lxbthtl” and “satchan?”.

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Those are the abbreviations your system might need to know if you are looking for pool access, luxury bath towels and satellite channels. And they are just a few of the hundreds of often baffling terms hotels currently use to describe their properties through online booking systems.

But in an age where consumers can, with just a tap of their finger, watch live feeds from friends and family across the globe or use virtual reality to transport themselves anywhere in the world, content is king. And abbreviations no longer make an adequate content strategy.

Travelers today don’t just crave rich content, they demand it. In addition to photos and video, they want easy-to-comprehend descriptions and direct answers to simple things, like whether a hotel has free Wi-Fi, a pool or free parking; what local transportation options are available; and when hotel restaurants and other facilities are open.

But, like most aspects of hotel distribution today, meeting these demands is complicated. For many companies, the same constraints on legacy hotel systems that led to this generic “system speak” being created in the first place remain. The industry has also grown accepting of incomplete room information.

At DHISCO, we have been working hard to transform content for our hotel partners around the globe so their travel-selling partners are able to access complete and easy-to-interpret descriptions that will encourage more bookings across multiple online channels.

It’s no small task. Every hotel company has its own room codes. And there are a lot of them.   

To get started, we mined the room information shopping data of 20 large hotel brands, finding a total of 590 common abbreviations. Each hotel brand had an average of 250 unique abbreviations, with one large hotel brand having 1,050 distinct abbreviations.

Then we looked at the most searched items, converting the data into distinct room names and descriptions without abbreviations.

The result? We created DHISCO’s Content Transformation service, which mines and extracts data from travel searches, then creates a new data store that enables hotels to update their content automatically.

In other words, we do the heavy lifting by capturing and delivering actual room information from real-time shopping data, then transforming those acronyms, abbreviations, uppercase fonts and phonetics into information everyone can read.

We’re excited to be the first hospitality distribution company to offer this Content Transformation service to our partners around the globe. It’s just one of several exciting new projects we’ve established to turn the vast amounts of data flowing through our switches into the intelligence our partners can use to grow and compete in this fast-changing world of travel technology.

– Anne Cole, vice president, content

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Apr 03

solving the hospitality industry’s ‘content conundrum’

In the world of hospitality distribution, we often refer to the “content conundrum:” the challenge of taking images, property and room information and everything else consumers want to know about a hotel’s services, rules and amenities and displaying them quickly – and accurately – during the booking process.

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But for all of the hotel and travel information now available at the click of a mouse or a tap of the finger, most people would be shocked at just how difficult a proposition that is.

Across the world, many travel companies are still sharing information with online travel agencies, or OTAs, via spreadsheets or by legacy content updates that contain truncated, capitalized and highly abbreviated information. The idea of adding richer content about everything − from pet polices to restaurant hours and thread counts on sheets − becomes even more complicated by the fact that such information may be held across a variety of legacy hotel computer systems.

It becomes more difficult when you add in the underlying tension between hotels and OTAs over commissions, branding issues and guest loyalty as well as the challenge of creating new technologies that enable everyone’s computers to talk to each other.

That’s why HEDNA − short for Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association − last year created a new content working group. Our goal: solve the content conundrum. As vice president of the HEDNA board and member of the content working group, I am pleased to report that progress is being made. This requires companies to set aside competitive concerns and tensions to develop common standards that benefit the industry as a whole.

This isn’t a fast process, but − to move it forward more quickly − we have created two subgroups to look at this: one from the perspectives of the guest and the hotel company providing the experience and the other from the perspective of the technology solutions provider.

After our annual meeting earlier this year, I am encouraged. The industry truly recognizes that we no longer can delay efforts to solve this puzzle.

And we can’t simply solve these issues in English. In addition to richer content, there is a demand by all players to address translation issues. Companies must be able to take their inventories global, across multiple languages and in mobile as well as traditional formats.

Consumers are demanding more and more real-time information in the booking process. Therefore, the only way for companies to compete is to be able to deliver this information accurately, across a variety of platforms and in a variety of languages.

Here at DHISCO, we are committed to helping the industry find solutions, both through HEDNA and directly with our many global partners. After all, solving the content conundrum lies at the very heart of our mission, to connect the world.

– Anne Cole, vice president, content

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Mar 08

big data challenge

One of our biggest assets here at DHISCO is the data we collect and process for billions of hotel bookings around the world. But like so many other companies in the digital age, we find turning all that information into business intelligence to be one of our biggest undertakings.

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We also know data mining is just the thing university students need to engage with in order to better understand today’s complex business environments. That’s why I am excited to announce that DHISCO once again is partnering with the University of North Texas for its Big Data Challenge.

We helped UNT launch the first such contest at the end of 2015, giving students more than 14 terabytes of raw hospitality data and challenging them to create next-generation tools for analyzing international travel and hotel booking trends.

They did not disappoint. More 100 students on 28 teams used sophisticated tools to produce valuable real-world insights for the hospitality industry on data mining and market innovation.

This year’s challenge promises to be even bigger and better as UNT opens the competition to students across all disciplines. More than 200 are expected to participate in this year’s event. Sabre Hospitality Solutions is joining us by also providing data for the students.

The raw data is scrubbed of any personal or competitive information. The students are given a choice of which company’s information to use, then set loose for eight weeks to turn into it into creative and useful intelligence.

Although many great minds in our industry are on the constant hunt for efficient ways to translate data into useful tools, we know some of the most creative ideas are sparked by fresh, young minds who apply increasingly sophisticated ideas and technological skills to the task.

In our first data challenge, a team of computer science students won Best in Show and took home $1,500 for creating dashboards that showed hotel-specific rate and booking information as broader industry trends.

Other entries included an analysis of reservation cancellations and modifications, a dashboard to determine when and where to advertise to best target specific audiences and a parsing of data that showed how group sizes impact lengths of stay.

I was absolutely blown away by the students’ efforts in the first Big Data Challenge. I can’t wait to see what an even broader field of students working on data from different industries can generate this time around.

– CEO Toni Portmann

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