How The Travel & Accommodation Industry Benefits From Cloud Computing

By Girish Premchandran, CTO, ZUZU Hospitality Solutions

Technology has been a key accelerator for growth and the hospitality industry has been leveraging it for decades. From GDS services to Online Travel Agencies to Search Engines, the travel vertical has experienced a tremendous amount of innovation and still has room for more. A primary driver in recent years is the adoption of cloud computing and the proliferation of SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS Infrastructure as a Service) technologies. From a software development perspective, cloud tech has helped bring in the best in software engineering practices, while simplifying the integration with various service providers e.g. payment gateways, content providers, online travel agencies. This enables travel companies from small startups to big behemoths to put together rich online experiences for the consumer, throughout the travel journey from planning their trip, shopping for the best prices to posting travel updates. This article focuses on the challenges the hospitality industry faces in the digital landscape and how cloud computing tools can help alleviate them.

Technology has been a key accelerator for growth and the hospitality industry has been leveraging it for decades. From GDS services to Online Travel Agencies to Search Engines, the travel vertical has experienced a tremendous amount of innovation and still has room for more. A primary driver in recent years is the adoption of cloud computing and the proliferation of SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) technologies. From a software development perspective, cloud tech has helped bring in the best in software engineering practices, while simplifying the integration with various service providers e.g. payment gateways, content providers, online travel agencies. This enables travel companies from small startups to big behemoths to put together rich online experiences for the consumer, throughout the travel journey from planning their trip, shopping for the best prices to posting travel updates. This article focuses on the challenges the hospitality industry faces in the digital landscape and how cloud computing tools can help alleviate them.

From a cost perspective with its pay-as-you-go model, cloud computing is allowing companies to shift their IT CapEx to OpEx instead. For startups it provides an avenue to take an idea from inception to production to scale without incurring the cost of managing large data centers. This has now led to startups providing services like rate management for hotels, price aggregation for flights, curated journeys and activities, as well as providing complementary service endpoints for a rich travel ecosystem. For a company that is looking to augment value-added services, this gives them the ability to collaborate and extend their service offerings.

Infrastructure management using software

Traditionally, managing infrastructure involved bringing in a team of sys admins that operated separately from the core development team. This typically involved additional integration and coordination between teams that have a separate set of engineering practices. By introducing Infrastructure as Code (IAC), it has become easier to manage cloud infrastructure using core software development methodologies. Abstracting infrastructure components through APIs gives developers access to a space that was traditionally the domain of sys admins. Continuous Integration/ Continuous Deployment pipelines for infrastructure development are used to manage code that builds and updates infrastructure components. This allows for a higher level of testability of infrastructure components increasing site reliability. These core advantages allow a small hospitality startup to focus on building and scaling their business with standardized engineering methodologies, while increasing delivery speed.

Managing scale

Scalability and reliability are the core tenets of any ecommerce web site providing services to customers. This gets especially amplified in the travel space when there are deals to take advantage of. Every time a deal is announced particularly when it is a time bound deal, the traffic spike that ensues can take down the infrastructure of a site. This can impact revenue and the reliability of the company to provide a consistent stable user experience. Cloud technologies give hospitality companies the much needed on demand infrastructure scalability. This provides scalability for the duration of the deal and also cost savings when the infrastructure components are scaled down.

Handling Payments

Typical travel transactions that involve payment systems require going through the PCI-DSS Compliance process to store personal and credit card information, which can  be an expensive and time consuming process. With infrastructure in the cloud, this process is simplified as cloud providers are required to be PCI compliant at a technology infrastructure level. Companies are still responsible for the PCI-DSS certification, however this can be done by isolating pieces of infrastructure via separate accounts, network isolation, security roles as well as auditing the flow of information and changes in the system, all provided as salient features in the cloud ecosystem.

Speed of delivery

Consumers are also looking for faster downloads and page rendering times. Doing any kind of travel planning involves looking at heavy media assets in the form of images and videos that can slow down the site experience. Content Data Networks (CDNs) are now a feature in most cloud providers which allows travel sites to bring media assets closer to consumers. This reduces download times especially when sites are hosted in regions on the other side of the globe.

Data, Analytics and Personalization

Personalization is a key driver to retaining customer loyalty and providing an engaging user experience. To keep the consumer updated with the latest deals, price comparisons or plain old recommendations is a constant battle for a travel experience provider. To drive a personalized  experience, cloud data pipelines can aggregate and analyze vast amounts of data, for the number crunching needed to validate various hypotheses. This allows travel sites to test and validate various user experience models that focus on improving metrics like conversion, MAU, DAU across devices.

With the advent of technologies like server less and real time streaming data analysis, travel sites can leverage their real time click stream data to track consumer behavior and react in real-time.

The road ahead

As cloud technologies mature, the services provided are geared to addressing problems at a consumer level. A key focus in the service offering these days is machine learning. The field has gained traction in the past few years with constant innovation happening in hardware as well as software. As model creation becomes more automated in the cloud, hospitality startups without much data science experience can start leveraging these services to provide an edge previously only available to bigger players. This allows them to provide services like rate and revenue management at a fraction of the cost.

With the advent of these new and exciting technologies in the cloud space, the travel and accommodations industry is primed for innovation in the coming decade.

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