Has NDC already happened for hotels?

Paul Raymond

Written by Paul Raymond

6 min read – 

28 May, 2024

Those of us who have been working in travel for more than a couple of years know that the industry is always moving forward.

Just when we had nailed down the automated paper ticket, along came digital ticketing. And now, the inevitable move to mobile devices to allow a seamless traveller experience.

While the travel industry is focused on the challenges that the airlines are going through, there is a silent revolution in accommodation that has been underway for 20 years and has progressed faster than the creators of NDC could ever dream about.

The good old days

My first experience of booking a hotel in a TMC required me to go to a telex and bell the hotel. This consisted of sitting at a massive keyboard with a green screen and typing a message to a property in the hope that somebody at the other end would pick up the message. You had the extra option of pressing the ‘bell’ button, which I assume set off some kind of noise at the reception desk. I say assume, as most of the responses to my ‘bell’ were less than polite. 

That said, the room was booked and the paper record was added to a hotel voucher, to be delivered to the client by motorbike along with their handwritten air tickets.

I share this story to demonstrate how far hotel booking has come. My story wasn’t from 1940 as it sounds, but the early 90s. So, what has happened since? And why does no one seem to know — or care  about the massive strides we have taken?

A turning point

In the mid-90s, the GDS recognised that they were missing out on a significant part of the traveller booking as most flight bookings had no hotel booking associated and ‘attachment rate’ was born.

As the air format for booking was adapted to work with hotel communication systems, the larger chains saw the value and began to promote the GDS channel to the TMCs directly and the travel world finally moved to a single source for travellers to see the hotels content.

The world was good.

The landscape shifts

Move forward to 2005 and a new hotel player was emerging in the UK.

Premier Inn was the love child of Whitbread, a number of Holiday Inns and independent properties and they intended to be a brand that sold to the customer directly using ‘the internet’. Why was this important? Well, they didn’t want to play in the GDS. Much like their troublesome cousin, Ryanair, they recognised that they could own distribution — and they did.

After initially being ignored by the TMC community, it became clear that that travellers wanted TMCs to book this content and, in turn, Premier Inn recognised the value in TMCs having access to the content, leading to the creation of a direct connect API.

This model was to be proliferated across the leisure travel booking industry. Booking.com, Expedia and many others entered the consumer market, connecting directly to content providers across the world.

So, couldn’t the TMC simply use these new aggregators? Well, the answer was a loud and angry ‘no’.

The TMC and GDS had developed complex data structures requiring information to pass through reporting and billing processes and plugging new content in that didn’t necessarily have the same structures was a major challenge.

Tried-and-tested solutions

Fast forward to today and you have organisations that are now solving this challenge. Instead of the GDS being the source of truth, platforms like HotelHub are able to take content from the GDS, combine it with any number of content providers and then place it back into any TMC data repository, whether that is the good old PNR or the new world of PNR-free Spotnana.

The ability to connect the right content and bring it back into the TMC in the correct format is vital. TMCs not only need access to content, but they also need access to the right content and for their agents and customers to be able to compare it in real time. They can do that today using the HotelHub platform.

Lessons learned

The truth is that NDC has already happened in accommodation — and the challenge has been addressed and met by companies embracing new technologies while understanding the key drivers of the TMC.

Imagine if the air industry could do the same?

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