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A Good Travel Experience Begins with One Single Booking Portal – How Open APIs Are Leading the Way

By Blog

For more information on the OpenAPI Initiative and #sig-travel, join the conversation on Slack.

Today’s traveler is increasingly shopping for an experience, not just a seat on a plane or bed in a hotel. In fact, the travel experience begins from the booking environment itself where consumers expect a single portal to connect across travel providers and travel retailers. People are looking for the convenience and value of the delivery and ride sharing apps that they use in their day-to-day lives and want that applied to the travel experience.

The reason the travel industry has lagged behind modern expectations is because it has lagged behind the latest technological trends. It’s that simple.

Creating an End-to-End Journey is Hard

The process and protocols largely used today between providers have their base in travel standards agreed to in the 1960s and modified over time. Initially created to address airline interlining, allowing a single ticket to include flights on multiple air carriers, they have been pressed into service across the travel verticals.

As time has gone on the once workable solution has begun to show its limitations. There are multiple efforts in the industry to break with the past and pursue an approach where a travel offer may be handled much like any other retail offering in the digital space.

Travel, however, has some unique needs as products are transient (an empty seat is worthless after departure time) and in most cases specific to location (airplanes must land at an airport). Also, in most cases a travel product must be combined with another travel product to satisfy a request to create a trip.

Creating an end-to-end journey implies a combined offer from multiple offers proposed and/or serviced by multiple providers. This adds a level of complexity, maintaining relationships between offers, other retail categories avoid.

Key Takeaway: Focusing on the experience as a new approach to travel retail requires a new level of interoperability among participants in the travel market.

Addressing Interoperability Will Open Up Broad Opportunities

Solving the issues to support experience based, total trip, retail at scale could unlock massive economic opportunities for many of the current distribution channels operating today or create new ones. Mainstream distribution channels focus mainly on air which in the US had a total operating revenue of $120[1] billion. However, the total US travel revenue for 2019 was $1.1[2] trillion.

Much of that figure is consumers figuring out for themselves how to make arrangements, a huge, missed opportunity to leverage automation. To build the experiences people are looking for, outside of immediate travel and lodging portals like Expedia, consumers are bouncing between websites and calendars to find restaurants, museum passes and jet ski rentals.

The reason we aren’t seeing a wider variety of offerings is not hard to understand: For the mainline distributors it’s not worth the effort to connect, maintain and monitor small suppliers thru bespoke APIs.

By unlocking interoperability, providers of travel products and services would have access to channels they are currently shut out of due to costs and complexity. The public is eager to get out of the house and experience the world again but would like to avoid the odious task of DIY travel orchestration and management. They want experience led retailing which industries like hospitality are investing in but only at the property level, not at the full trip level.

The travel industry cannot afford to allow API chaos to continue to be a barrier to more effective retailing.

Getting Alignment on the Solution is Critical

In response, the OpenTravel Alliance (OTA) and the OpenAPI Initiative (OAI) will work together to focus on API conventions and standards, not just messages. Within OAI, there is now a special interest group to focus on travel issues (#sig-travel).

The Travel SIG will be the conduit for the needs of the travel industry that pertain to the Open API Specification (OAS). The OAS is a broad specification intended to help developers solve real world business issues with as much flexibility as possible.

What is needed for interoperability and to reduce API chaos and hence distribution costs in travel is more consistency in API behaviors. OpenTravel will take the lead on providing open-source tooling and publishing reference architectures with refence implementations that adhere to the OAS. OTA 2.0 with its model driven approach will form the basis of this more comprehensive approach that supports all travel verticals. This will be in cooperation with existing travel standards bodies and trade associations.

The overriding goal will be to lower the cost of connectivity to publish, acquire, distribute, and market digital travel products.

What Can I do?

Join the conversation and help build a more modern and seamless travel industry! For more information on the OpenAPI Initiative and #sig-travel, join the conversation on Slack.

For more information on OTA 2.0, including becoming an Open Travel member, go to or contact Jeff ErnstFriedman at

[1] Source: Phocuswright White Paper, Air Sales and the Travel Agency Distribution Channel April 2019

[2] Source: U.S. TRAVEL AND TOURISM OVERVIEW (2019), US Travel Association.

Announcing the New OpenAPI Initiative Special Interest Group for Travel

By Announcement, Blog

Join OpenTravel and the OpenAPI Initiative Travel Workgroup on July 22, 2020, as we bring the focus to the European traveller. Click here to get the Zoom invite. To get all the latest updates and announcements, please click here and sign up for regular updates!

The travel industry relies on APIs. Connecting business among diverse industries like travel, tourism and hospitality, and representing an incredible array of companies that need to efficiently communicate and relay electronic information includes airlines, car rental firms, hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, technology companies and many more. 

With this in mind, the OpenAPI Initiative is creating a Travel Special Interest Group (SIG) to support the adoption of APIs and facilitate the digital transformation throughout the travel industry. 

The OpenAPI TravelSIG mission is to “enable and nurture the growth of API adoption, development and developers throughout the travel vertical through promotion of the OpenAPI Initiative.” It will meet as needed to discuss common challenges and solutions with the travel space as well as provide a single, unified voice in coordinating with the OAI’s technical steering committee as well as form on an ad hoc basis by request from the TSC, TOB or the BGB as requested by any of those bodies.

The Travel SIG will designate a point of contact to communicate with the governing board and other bodies within OpenAPI as needed.

Participation in the Travel SIG will be open to any member of the OAI. Participation from non-members – we like to say “soon-to-be members!” –  will be allowed on a case-by-case basis to provide relevant subject matter expertise and help serve as an outreach opportunity to bring on new members and adopters for OpenAPI Initiative.

Please join the Travel SIG! Click here to get the Zoom invite for the next meeting on July 22, 2020, and here and sign up for regular updates!

OpenAPI Welcomes the OpenTravel Alliance as New Member

By Announcement, Blog

OpenAPI welcomes the OpenTravel Alliance as its newest member!

OpenTravel is a not-for-profit trade association that develops data messaging structures in order to facilitate communication between the many facets of the travel industry. It is the travel industry’s only open-source, interoperability data standard. Using OpenTravel messaging, travelers can search, book, pay and check-in/out in a completely contactless environment.

“We see solid strategic alignment between the mission of OpenTravel Alliance and that of the OpenAPI Initiative,” said Jeff ErnstFriedman, Executive Director at OpenTravel Alliance. “We share a goal of promoting open standards in the API economy and OAI is the nexus for all aspects of generating an API marketplace. We are looking forward to bringing the voice of the travel industry to the 2020 API Specifications Conference being held Sept 9 – 10.”

Tens of thousands of OpenTravel messaging structures are currently in use. The open source standard encompass air, rail, cruise, golf, tour packages, ground transportation, hotel and car rentals. The organization got its start using an XML messaging system, but has since made OpenTravel Messaging available in JSON, WSDL and OpenAPI Spec. 

To help the travel industry adapt to COVID-19, OpenTravel has rolled out a new COVID protocol messaging system. In the upcoming release OpenTravel messaging will include capabilities that allow travel companies to take advantage of the pent-up demand and increase revenue.

“Our technology allows for interoperability between suppliers that will increase revenue opportunities and decrease technology costs,” ErnstFriedman said. “The interoperability component of OpenTravel Messaging will allow for a seamless traveler experience that will reduce physical touchpoints and expedite the movement of travelers throughout their journey.” 

“OpenTravel Alliance is an exciting addition to the OpenAPI Initiative,” said Marsh Gardiner, Product Manager, Google Cloud, and Technical Steering Committee member, OpenAPI Initiative. “Standardizing how APIs are described to streamline development makes good sense for many different industries, and travel in particular can benefit.” 

OpenAPI Resources

To learn more about how to participate in the evolution of the OpenAPI Specification:

About the OpenAPI Initiative

The OpenAPI Initiative (OAI) was created by a consortium of forward-looking industry experts who recognize the immense value of standardizing on how APIs are described. As an open governance structure under the Linux Foundation, the OAI is focused on creating, evolving and promoting a vendor neutral description format. The OpenAPI Specification was originally based on the Swagger Specification, donated by SmartBear Software. To get involved with the OpenAPI Initiative, please visit

About Linux Foundation 

Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation projects like Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js and more are considered critical to the development of the world’s most important infrastructure. Its development methodology leverages established best practices and addresses the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration. For more information, please visit us at