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10/24/2011

Associations to Implement Unique Global Identifiers for Hotels

Several major associations involved in hospitality distribution and technology have joined forces to implement a program of unique global identifiers for hotels.  Three associations—Hospitality Technology & Financial Professionals (HFTP), Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA), and Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG)—will jointly form a governing body to oversee the effort, and are expected to select one or more third-party companies to operate it under contract. 
 
The effort also has the support of the OpenTravel Alliance, the Convention Industry Council (CIC) and Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI).
 
Hoteliers and technology providers have long complained that the lack of an agreed system of identifiers for hotels, distributors, and other partners makes it difficult and expensive to keep databases up-to-date. The problem has become more severe with the proliferation of thousands of Internet sites with hotel data in recent years.  Search engines can easily become confused when hotels change names, or use name variations in different languages or through different distributors.  And when a hotel opens, is renamed or rebrands, the lack of a central registration service means that every electronic trading partner must be notified independently, a process that can take weeks or months. 
 
The new effort will focus first on identifiers for hotels and lodging establishments.  Future iterations may include event venues, distribution channels and processing partners, among others. In addition to numerous applications in distribution, Unique Global Identifiers are a probable requirement for a major hotel industry project on credit-card security being undertaken by HTNG, to support the secure passing of credit card information from the original booking source to the hotel.
 
Speaking for the group, HTNG CEO Douglas Rice said “We envision a simple and low- or no-cost registration system, based on principles similar to those used for Internet domains.”  Just as an Internet domain owner controls the key information for that domain, such as the location of servers that support it, the Unique Global Identifier program will allow key information about hotels and other entities to be updated once by the hotel owner or their designated agent, and propagated to all relevant parties automatically.  Like Internet domain names, which are governed by an independent organization called ICANN, the governing board expects to delegate authority to multiple “registrars” to handle the registration and assignment of unique identifiers to different types of entities.
 
To reduce or eliminate startup and operating costs, the group has been exploring possibilities to engage with commercial partners.  It has identified some who already have extensive hotel data, as well as the ability for hotels to maintain that data in a secure manner, and a business need for higher-quality data.  Some of these potential partners have indicated that they believe they could operate a registration service at minimal additional cost, and also a willingness to cover some or all of those costs.  The governing board expects to require that all data provided by hotels as part of the program be made available by registrars in real time to anyone with a legitimate business need.  Because some of the registrars could potentially be companies who already have significant positions in the industry, this approach would ensure that they gain no unfair advantage – the data they receive would need to be provided by their competitors, and would be equally available to them whether or not they were selected as a registrar.
 
Depending on the outcome of negotiations, registrars would offer registration to hotels for no cost, or for a nominal cost.  The group is interested in hearing from companies that would like to be registrars.  Companies should already have an online system by which entities can maintain basic registration information securely, and a process for transferring and challenging ownership.  To register interest, please contact HTNG at [email protected]