Dec 20

looking forward to another successful, opportunity-filled year

As we prepare to close the books on another productive year here at DHISCO, I want to, first, thank all of our friends and partners for making 2017 a success, and wish you all happy holidays and a prosperous New Year.

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It’s been another year of exciting opportunity, growth and, of course, challenge as we’ve navigated the fast-changing hospitality distribution landscape, developing new solutions for today while keeping a close eye out for disruptors on the horizon.

Much of the talk in tech circles this year has focused on artificial intelligence, big data and the so-called internet of things. The potential for these technologies is huge. And we are just beginning to uncover all the ways they can be applied in the travel and hospitality distribution sectors.

At the same time, however, we are hearing more and more about things like blockchain, which most us are still trying to wrap our heads around, let alone be able to predict its impact on and potential uses in distribution. We’ll be keeping an eye on the blockchain developments.

We will also be focused heavily on our continued collaboration with industry partners, through groups like HEDNA and on our own, to continue finding ways to keep delivering the best and most accurate rates along with the richest content.

In 2017, I am proud to say, we built a new data center that significantly improved capacity, response times and growth potential, and we are now handling more than 16 billion transactions a month.

And we are looking forward to announcing new products and partnerships to benefit us all in the year ahead.

We will also be continuing our global travels, making sure we maintain those all-important personal connections that enable us to build real, collaborative relationships while also identifying new challenges and new opportunities.

Our first stop in 2018 will be HEDNA. If we don’t see you there, we hope to see you soon.

– CEO Toni Portmann


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Nov 27

assessing the boom in travel startups

With all the disruption we’re seeing in travel these days, it wasn’t surprising to read that Phocuswright research shows we are in an unprecedented period of opportunity for travel startups.

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According to their report, “The State of Travel Startups 2017,” a flood of travel-focused investors, incubators and other entrepreneurial support programs have given $62 billion to 1,497 travel startups since 2005.

While a lot of that has been poured into mobile and the sharing economy, the report says early-stage companies across a wide spectrum of categories, from search and data analytics to social networking and rich media, are getting more support than ever.

Importantly, however, the report notes that while “the price of entry for startups has never been lower, the price of success (has) never (been) higher.”

So what’s working and what’s not? According to Phocuswright, 392, or 26 percent, of the startups tracked have closed. And those farthest away from the actual transaction had the highest rates of failure.

The report categorized the companies by vertical, with the traditional lodging, air, tours, cruises and ground transportation -- as well as private accommodations -- all logging failure rates below 20 percent. At the same time, companies at the top of the booking funnel categories like “inspiration” and “itinerary” had a failure rate above 40 percent.

In other words, the further away from the transaction they are, the less likely they may be to generate revenue and survive, the report says.

That’s certainly valuable information for entrepreneurs and investors looking at travel startups going forward. Because after all, startups are always a risky venture. And in travel they are competing with established giants who are also focused on new growth areas,  

With so many new ideas and technologies, and the fast pace of change, hopefully Phocuswright and others will keep digging deeper to give us more insight and metrics behind the companies that excelled vs. those that failed. For instance, did the size of investment play a role? What other factors, both internal and external, are at play? And what conclusions can be drawn to help startups maximize their chances for success?

These are indeed exciting times for the travel technology space. But the fast pace of change also creates huge challenges. Thanks to the bright minds and ongoing analysis and trends from organizations like Phocuswright, it’s just a little bit easier for us all to remain relevant and competitive.

– CEO Toni Portmann




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Nov 06

making the global rounds for the all-important personal connections

Greetings from the road.. It’s a crazy busy month here at DHISCO, but the kind of busy we like as the DHISCO team travels from Singapore to London to Prague to Florida and, finally, Nebraska.

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It’s a whirlwind. But as I think most people have come to learn, in the age of constant digital connections, face-to-face meetings are even more important than ever.

Yes, we can connect with our customers 24/7 from pretty much anywhere in the world. It’s just not the same, however, as collaborating in person, building real relationships, discussing solutions, meeting new competitors, signing deals and, most importantly, identifying opportunities.

Last week we were in Singapore for ITB Asia, where we connected with current and future customers and met potential new partners in the world’s fastest-growing travel market.

This week we’ll be in London for World Travel Mart London, one of the leading global events for the travel industry. At the same time, we have a team in Fort Lauderdale for Phocuswright 2017, where we’ll learn about and participate in discussions with travel industry leaders about the next wave of innovation in travel. We’ll also have two people in Prague for the HTNG conference.

After that, we are off to Omaha for DHISCO’s 2017 client forum, a two-day event that gives us invaluable face time – and input – from the world’s leading hotel companies, online travel agencies, global distribution systems and other key partners.

When all is said and done, we’ll all no doubt be ready for a long Thanksgiving weekend. But we’ll also be re-energized and, hopefully, full of new ideas for better serving our customers and developing new solutions for connecting the world in 2018.

– CEO Toni Portmann

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Oct 23

sharing economy blurring the lines in hospitality

For the last few years, hospitality has been all abuzz about threats from the sharing economy.

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But recent headlines indicate that the long-term disruption from companies like Airbnb may be more about a blurring of lines in hospitality as hotel companies move to offer more vacation rentals and Airbnb moves into a hybrid version of the hotel space.

Last week, Airbnb made it clear it thinks there is value in traditional lodging options with the announcement it was building a hotel-style apartment building in Orlando, complete with a concierge and check-in desk.

It is also making a serious play into the more traditional vacation rental market with new tools that make it easier for professional property managers to offer their inventory on the Airbnb platform.

At the same time, Hyatt joined the growing list of hotel companies looking to compete in the sharing economy by adding the ability for its loyalty members to earn and redeem points on apartment rentals through a service called Oasis.

Accor hotels was among the first hotel companies to move into the sharing economy, acquiring the luxury home rental service onefinestay. It upped its game this year with purchase of two other luxury home rental companies that have boosted its inventory to more than 10,000 rentals.

Choice and Wyndham have also made changes to better compete in the sharing economy.

Last year, Choice announced it would partner with other companies to offer its loyalty members the ability to redeem their points for use at vacation rental properties.

And Wyndham announced it’s making 17,000 accommodations from its vacation rental and timeshare businesses eligible for free stays through its Wyndham Rewards loyalty program.

While it’s easy to understand the threat being felt by hoteliers by Airbnb, we all know that competition is what drives progress, innovation and improvement, and it’s exciting to see how the industry is responding to this disruption.

– CEO Toni Portmann




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Sep 25

it’s time to reexamine the data structure behind hotel distribution

For years, the hospitality industry has been struggling to upgrade its legacy systems both to meet the needs of the fast-growing field of new players and return the types of sophisticated queries consumers are increasingly demanding.

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And while those of us in the trenches of distribution continue to work diligently to meet the new challenges, I’m increasingly convinced the only real answer is to blow it all up.

Yes, it sounds radical, but it needs to be seriously considered. That’s why we, at DHISCO, are starting over by asking an important question: How can the hospitality industry structure its data so consumers and travel professionals can more easily shop for hotels and rooms with the features and amenities they want?

Today, hotel companies use thousands of unique attributes to describe their properties and rooms. Attempting to marry the search terms and the way the traveler thinks with the way the content systems across multiple legacy systems are constructed is a nightmare. For example, a swimming pool is not just a pool. How do you map, across disparate systems, the code and abbreviation for a lap pool vs. a family pool? And indoor pool vs. outdoor pool? Is it heated? Does it have salt water instead of chlorine? Then, how do you make all that information readable across the hundreds of thousands of platforms used by billions of shoppers looking for hotels with pools — every month?  It’s impossible.

Yes, we can keep developing patches and systems and custom descriptions in free-form fields to map and transform all of this content across multiple legacy systems. But I’m convinced the only real long-term solution is to change the underlying taxonomy, or data structure, and develop a universal system that everyone can understand.

In short, we need a cost-effective system that enables hotels to customize their data in a format that online travel agencies and global distribution systems can quickly and easily read and distribute across multiple platforms.

We are not doing this in a vacuum. We have been talking with some of our biggest partners about joining this effort. We are engaging thought leaders working on next-generation artificial intelligence solutions. We are considering input from across the spectrum, including rates, inventory, static and dynamic content, descriptive content and images and translated and nuanced content – all with the goal of maximum conversion to real revenue for hotels.

It won’t be easy! Look at the transformation of our health care system. It was forced to tackle this problem back in the 1990s. The need for a common data structure was critical, and the structure of a health care record was treated differently across systems and companies. It took years. But today you can go to any doctor or hospital or pharmacy in the world, and they can read the same charts the same way because they use a universal coding structure.

Changing the taxonomy of hotel data – or the way attributes are organized around the descriptive content of rooms and properties – would enable hotels to move beyond basic room types to offer what George Roukas of Hudson Crossing characterizes in a recent article as the “new, attribute-based shopping model,” or ABS.

Under this model, he says, “consumers don’t see the room type or rate plan combinations; they see a list of attributes they can put into a shopping cart to build the product they want. If Jon wants to stay at a particular hotel with his wife and they’re interested in a king bed with ocean view and a balcony, then he can specify those attributes without knowing the room type. Each time he adds an attribute to the cart, the ABS engine prices that attribute separately, and the consumer can see how each attribute affects the total price of the room.”

Roukas goes on to explain how this can increase hotel revenue, by opening up more booking options rather than searches that are filtered simply by traditional room types and rates. The result enables hotels to more accurately zero in on exactly what each customer wants.

As Roukas says, we don’t yet know how shoppers will respond to attribute-based pricing. But one thing is clear: as we move into the next era of hospitality distribution, we need a simpler, more intelligent system. And we need a system in which hotels can both collaborate and compete with the sharing economy, where rooms and home rentals are sold solely on attributes.

It begins and ends with data structure. That is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). We are on it.  

– CEO Toni Portmann



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