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GLH Hotels: 'Apps are fun but if you haven't got an API strategy they start to wither'

Margi Murphy | June 22, 2015
Hoteliers clawed back crucial booking and availability data from distribution partners using APIs

GLH Hotels: ‘Apps are fun but if you haven’t got an API strategy they start to wither’

Customers "expect more than what you can offer", says enterprise architect at GLH Hotels, Matthew Newton; but simply pushing out apps is not the way to win them over, he tells ComputerworldUK.

"Apps are fun. They are nice, they are tangible. But they always feel like an awful lot of work for something that starts to wither as soon as it goes live", says Matthew Newton, enterprise architect at GLH hotels - the group that owns the international Thistle, Amba and Clermont hotel chains.

Instead, architects, business intelligence departments and business users need to invest time and money into an API strategy that will maximise a firm's digital channel, he suggests.

A recent study found that firms that describe themselves as digital savvy were guilty of developing apps without an API around them, despite proven revenue return.

"If you haven't got an API around an app, it's an awfully big investment and a lot of work to retool it. An API takes a lot of pressure from the apps team so they can keep it live, plus it needs to be in top form to dovetail into our systems of record. Very few people would use an app for a hotel company without being able to complete a booking - it would lack a certain element", Newton adds.

Since deploying an API layer through the Apigee platform, Newton said the hotel's mobile app development went from months to weeks.

As well as making it easier for a third party or internal app development team to update according to the latest popular operating system upgrades, APIs can help firms claw back data from partners to help personalise services and make better decisions.

GLH wanted to form direct connections between its core application, Oracle Opera - which controls reservations, billing and distribution - and major distribution partners like Booking.com.

"We had never been able to get a single picture of what people are actually asking for, or what the availability requests were."

The firm has now developed the APIs and endpoints to serve any direct connect request from a partner (without going through its Oracle system formerly know as Micros) to collect availability data.

"We now have 150,000 more availability requests that we can trap and analyse. That means we can offer direct rate pricing but also analyse the availability requests and traffic to spot patterns we never noticed before."

Using a API-as-a-service tool like Apigee, GLH were able to "make tweaks so the backend system wasn't killed" when a higher than expected amount of availability data and requests flooded in.

 

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