The current crisis has given me the opportunity to reflect on a few things (and I am not talking about which Zoom shirt to wear). Are we going through the worst phase of modern history? It definitely feels like that - at least for the travel industry.
Will we recover and come out stronger? Absolutely. The human nature of exploration and discovering new places has grown exponentially in the last three decades. The last three decades, have witnessed, the fastest evolution and adoption of technology across all industries.
The travel industry in particular has seen a global rise in overall demand, with more people across the world traveling to explore new cultures and finding business opportunities. In fact, there are many lessons to be learnt from the last 30 years.
It all started in 1989
1989 was a seminal year in the history of the world. A year marked by revolutions with each revolution having a common theme unifying millions of people - democratize the world, break free from old traditions and start something new.
Revolutions in Eastern Europe which led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union, the beginning of dismantling of apartheid in Africa, democratization of Brazil were examples of the entire world seemingly pushing towards something new.
1989 was also the year when the first proposal for the World Wide Web was created. Incidentally this was also the year when the hospitality industry in the United States went through a "democratization" as well, with different hotel chains joining forces to create the first electronic distribution company THISCO which changed the industry forever.
THISCO (now DHISCO) was funded as a startup by 16 of the largest hotel chains in the world. Each chain put down $100,000 with the goal of developing distribution technology for the hotel industry.
These forward-thinking industry majors became our founding members and the work done by the founding CEO John Davis III can be compared to the uphill task that United Nations does in achieving intergovernmental cooperation!
Our founding member chains were (note the names of the chains back in 1989):
Best Western International, Days Inns of America, Econo Lodges of America, Hilton Hotels Corporation, Holiday Corporation, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Corporation, La Quinta Motor Inns, Marriott Corporation, Omni Hotels, Quality Inns International, Ramada, The Sheraton Corporation, Trusthouse Forte Hotels, Utell International and Westin Hotels and Resorts.
The key need at the time was that all these hotel chains wanted a single electronic interface to the existing GDSs (seven at that time!) and the timing was perfect.
You could say that a combination of crafty thinking, common industry goals, funding, technology and motives fell into place to create THISCO, giving rise to a wave of unstoppable innovation in distribution. See 30 Years of the Distribution timeline below.
History always tells us to move forward
History never helps us predict accurately but surely helps us shape our learning for the future. In a candid conversation a few months ago with John Davis, the first CEO of THISCO, we reflected back on his early days and challenges. He spoke about the difficulties in getting everyone on the same page and the unique dependencies of the whole project.
He says: “Keeping the hotels together and getting the GDS’s to connect to the switch was a major challenge. We had board meetings every month with all 16 hotel companies.
"I talked about the need for everyone in the room to exchange their employer’s jersey for a common THISCO jersey. One of the issues was that if we did not get even one GDS to agree to connect, I could not have kept the hoteliers together.”
He further adds: “I met with the CEOs of all of the GDSs almost every month explaining the benefits for them to connect to the switch. I told them the hoteliers were united and if they wanted one chain, they would have to connect to get all 16. One GDS in particular said they could talk to one of the biggest chains into breaking rank! I told him that would not happen (having no idea of what they were telling him).
"There was a lot of bluffing going on by both of us but in the end, we came on top. This was not an isolated incident and attempts by companies to build direct connections were ambitious projects and all big tech-organizations wanted to solve for it.”
THISCO laid the foundation for commercial grade hotel electronic distribution. It became an amazing vehicle for industry talent, attracting the best from the hotel and technology industry, to contribute and build what has emerged as today’s modern distribution system.
Even though John and his team worked hard to solve for standardization, they still had to connect to each of the original chain CRSs in the way each chain of them wanted to. The chains did not want one standard connection and in addition there were no real standards for the original GDS’s.
Standards were being set for any new companies wanting to connect to the original switch and the company developed a standard interface for the OTA’s when they came into existence. Standards reduced the cost of connections for THISCO and for all parties involved - especially for smaller OTA’s.
Every new company that wanted to sell hotel rooms called THISCO to connect and they were almost the first service to put hotels on the internet!
This company was formed 30 years ago to solve key distribution challenges and in 2015, rebranded itself under a new management as Distribution Hospitality Intelligent Solutions Company (DHISCO) to solve age-old challenges that still exist today.
Fragmentation, information overload, manual intervention and other hassles still exist at each point of the distribution journey. The systems do not talk to each other due to which the data remains in silos leading to missed opportunities.
Most available distribution technology solve for basic distribution of ARI and content. They do not optimize on things like discovering new demand, setting up customized content by channel, expediting contracts/SLA setup and providing automated mapping. Innovation and reducing friction along each step of distribution journey has been a problem since long.
Rising to meet the tides of change
DHISCO and RateGain joined hands in 2018, with a vision of combining the stability and scale of DHISCO’s North American Presence with the reach of RezGain, a disruptive product that connected to over 600+ long tail OTAs in Asia and Europe.
RezGain, a trusted partner for Agoda, Booking and Expedia aimed to automate channel management started as it helped rate and inventory management by reducing error rates, avoiding overbooking and saving time.
The joint philosophy was to keep the connected traveler at its core and provide friction less distribution and unlock new revenue for distribution, revenue management and marketing executives.
We are helping hoteliers and travel partners in maximizing revenue by providing an end-to-end platform that is accurate, real-time and capable of generating actionable insights.
This philosophy has also led us to create pioneering products across our product lines like MarketDrone which utilize our Distribution intelligence as change hints to power our state-of-the-art pricing intelligence systems.
2019 also witnessed the launch of Smart Distribution, recently recognized by UNWTO as one of the few companies that will help the travel industry in demand recovery.
Again, a year of revolution, as it caters to the shortcomings of the distribution journey of the last 10 years by making each of the involved steps smarter. Smart Distribution promises to be a disruptive platform that leverages artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to discover new demand and expedite mapping and channel setup.
It helps in solving the unsolved pain points of the Hospitality Distribution journey with a simple vision of helping our partners maximize revenue and provide friction less distribution.
How can a 30-year-old company add value in the new normal?
Remember, when they said 30 is the new 20? It is definitely true in the case of DHISCO, as the company went through a massive tech-overhaul to be able to service the growing needs of our current chain partners and cater to new-age, born digital demand companies.
We continue to solve distribution challenges for our partners as DHISCO strives for 100% availability and 99.9% error free transactions.
This has been made possible by continuously upgrading our tech-stack and modernizing our IT infrastructure to be able to test, analyse, service and process billions of transactions while balancing the ever-increasing needs of our supply and demand partners.
Today, we work with 250,000+ properties and 1,500+ channels, processing more than 250+ billion data points and 50+ million reservations a year. We continue to evolve, explore and learn more about the challenges of our supply and demand partners to help them adapt and generate revenue in the ‘new’, the ‘now’ and the ‘next’ normal.
This gains more significance in the wake of this pandemic, as we do not know where recovery will come – regular channels or new ones?
Hotel Chains will also have to look more inward at local/intra-region demand channels especially in large markets like APAC and South America as well as growing outbound travel from these markets as travel resumes post COVID as these regions have the largest traveling population going forward.
Apart from this, the current pandemic will create other challenges Hoteliers will need to keep solve for the following challenges as well in the new normal:
- Fix the resource gap to drive revenue without incurring heavy cost
- Inability to invest in innovation due to lack of resources and expertise
- Increasing rate integrity and parity issues (nobody’s watching right now!)
- Improving speed to market across a wide spectrum of partners, ability to handle huge search volumes and managing complex rate rules including customized content requirements across various channels
- Understanding optimal distribution mix and related impact on Revenue Management strategies
- Distribution insights and market analytics that can indicate market share, enable discovery of top source markets and potential new channels
- Maintaining high levels of data security and sovereignty
Data security and sovereignty in particular have gained significant focus recently. It is something that sets DHISCO apart from some other providers and we do this by:
- Securing all of our clients’ PII transaction data within the same country where the supply client is headquartered, so that both our customers and their customers do not have to worry about unauthorized access to their data
- Storing all data in an encrypted format and ensuring that the keys to that data is also stored within the same country
- Ensuring no back up of PII data exists on any other server outside that country
Since our inception, we have played a critical role in eliminating the inconsistencies between all kinds of supply and demand partners.
The company has made significant contribution in improving industry connectivity standards as well as in optimizing pairings between various CRSs with differing capabilities and new age demand partners.
One of our biggest value additions is interoperability between disparate applications by adding efficiency, eliminating redundancies and building long term alliances.
2020 almost feels like Year Zero due to the COVID crisis and the impact it has had on global economies and travel industry in particular. As we look at the next 30 years on the horizon - the travel industry and distribution is bound to get more complex.
The industry today is practically unrecognizable from what it was when we began the distribution business 30 years ago. The companies that adapt to the new normal will not only survive but thrive going forward.
So, while you spend time in collecting information about the "WOKE traveler", we will be right here continuously adjusting, updating and re-orienting ourselves for the next challenge DHISCO can solve in your distribution journey. Till then, stay safe, stay healthy and hang in there for a #bettertomorrow!