Since the rise of the Internet as a source of booking and searching for holidays online, the hotel industry has been subject to several changes. With a growth rate of over 100% in the past few years, hotels can now reach out directly to millions of consumers. Whilst the Internet has also enabled dramatic cost reductions, Pegasus Solutions has recently reported a growing problem that is a direct result of this increasing demand for distribution.
Caption: Kevin Short,
SVP Reservation Services - Pegasus Solutions
Successful shopping sites compete by providing as much information as possible to the consumer, particularly rate and availability information. However, what has not been so apparent is the strain that the new Internet-based systems are placing on existing Central Reservation Systems (CRS) infrastructures.
The issue particularly affects hotel chains and franchisees with numerous properties in large metropolitan areas.
Adding conviction to the situation, Phocuswright
predicts that the overall percentage of rooms booked online will grow from an estimated 9% in 2002 to 20% in 2005.
In a concerted effort to help hotel chains to manage this hyper-growth of transactions, Pegasus has launched the Shopping Engine. This product has been developed to ease the strain on hotel reservations systems (CRSs) by streaming transactions so that hotels can maximise efficiency from the existing reservations infrastructure.
Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, Marriott International Inc. and Six Continents Hotels are amongst the first hotels to deploy this service.
, Pegasus Solutions CEO and Chairman commented on the burden that travel agencies are placing on the existing hotel infrastructure, coining the term ‘availability bursting’ to describe the scenario: “A key feature of many successful internet shopping sites is the presentation of a large amount of hotel information to the consumer, particularly rate and availability information”. Davis commented: “To get those data, many more room availability request messages are sent to the hotel CRSs so the site can present optimum comparison shopping in rapid fashion.”
Whereas in the early days of the internet - two years ago - a typical booking site required about 25 availability messages to generate one booking, Davis said that it is now common to drive as many as 200 to 300 availability requests per booking.
Internet Travel News spoke to Kevin Short
, Pegasus Senior Vice President of Reservation Services about the effects of these availability requests: Kevin commented “Since we are the gateway for the booking engines, we were the first to feel the effects. We were swamped - the systems were inundated and couldn’t handle the volumes.” Kevin added, “After we cleaned out our pipes, a tidal wave was released and has started to affect the CRSs.”
With the goal of streamlining the reservations process and decreasing hotels’ look to book ratio, Pegasus
’ new technology known as the shopping engine should benefit both hotels and online agencies.
Hotel CRSs will be protected from bursts of availability messages through use of a new rate and availability engine. Online sites will be able to consolidate multiple availability requests into a streamlined transaction, stripping out non-essential data.
Hotel Director of Distribution planning, Andrew Rubinacci sees this new application as crucial, commenting on the new technology: “The Shopping engine technology condenses the process to a single transaction, reducing the burden on our existing systems.”
In order to accommodate the new functionality, several alterations are necessary. Kevin comments: “To take advantage of the shopping engine, hotels have to do some work and put some applications in place, but the shopping sites have to do that as well - they will need to take some responsibility for the situation”.
Although uncertain about the implications of changing the infrastructure altogether, Kevin revealed that the biggest implication could be causing hotel companies to look at the total costs of each channel.
The Internet has opened up many possibilities and we all want these trends to continue, but it is important not to overlook the finer details. I asked Kevin to offer his advice for hotel industry professionals at this transitional time. He commented: “Hotel industry professionals must increase their own awareness right now. They should consider what issues could arise and what their options are. Work with changes, establish communications procedures and talk about experiences and solutions with fellow industry professionals!”