With Justice Department decision close, ITA Software joins hotel trade associationNewsBy Dennis Schaal | March 25, 2011Share This article was originally published on ITA Software, coveted by Google for its airfare data prowess, has quietly joined a hotel trade association and its product distribution workgroup.As FairSearch.org and its members push for the Justice Department to kill Google's acquisition of ITA Software over antitrust concerns about what the merged companies might do in the airfare search arena, ITA Software formally joined Hotel Technology Next Generation.And, ITA Software requested to join -- and was voted into March 21 -- HTNG's product distribution workgroup.ITA Software is known for its airfare shopping and pricing product, but has been working under the covers on hotels for a couple of years.Google has been feverishly developing hotel search and pricing -- much to the dismay of some online travel intermediaries -- through Google Maps and Google Places, and having ITA Software lend its considerable data software talents to the effort should be a significant advantage.Kayak's Steve Hafner expressed his concerns about Google pushing into the hotel sector a couple of years ago.ITA Software downplays the significance of its joining HTNG."It's not that big of a deal," says ITA Software spokeswoman Cara Kretz. "We do attend lots of industry meetings and this is not our first hotel meeting."However, ITA Software is not merely attending HTNG meetings, but joined the association and will work in the product distribution workgroup alongside more than two dozen other hotel or technology companies ranging from InterContinental Hotels and Pegasus Solutions to Starwood and Amadeus. Industry partner memberships in HTNG go for $3,500 to $4,250 per year."ITA doesn't do this sort of thing for no good reason," comments one hotel technology insider.After all, ITA has joined HTNG, but dropped out of the XML standards organization, OpenTravel in 2010, citing concerns about ITA's efficient use of its staff resources.HTNG's product distribution workgroup analyzes schema from groups such as OpenTravel and provides guidance to hotels and technology companies about ways to make them most relevant to the hotel industry. The workgroup takes up matters such as integrating property management and revenue management systems, as well as property management and point of sale systems, for example.Or, as HTNG says, it "publishes a wealth of technical specifications designed to promote easy interoperability among systems." The group also offers an "HTNG-Certified trademark label."The trade association's aim is to "foster, through collaboration and partnership among hoteliers and technology providers, the development of next-generation solutions that will enable them to do business globally in the 21st century," HTNG says.ITA's further involvement in the hotel industry -- and the implications that could have for Google's advancing push into travel -- comes as one source close to the situation says a U.S. Department of Justice decision on the Google-ITA Software acquisition could come within the next two weeks.The source believes that no agreement has yet been reached with Google, and that the Justice Department ultimately would file a consent decree outlining the conditions of a settlement or sue to block the acquisition.A consent decree, the source speculates, could establish a framework for monitoring Google's adherence to the settlement conditions and might provide a forum for companies to express ongoing concerns.