Back in 2016, IBM predicted that the API economy would be worth $2.2 trillion by 2018, based on the cumulative benefits of data integration and exchange through all industry sectors and the transactional value of that data.
McKinsey predicted in September of 2017 that the number of public APIs will triple by September 2018 with functionality evolving to include mobile services like digital wallets and the growth of AI and machine learning. The consultancy valued the market opportunities from APIs at $1 trillion in global economic profit.
Whether one or the other of them is right about the total market figure, APIs are definitely changing the technology landscape. The trend towards mobile-first transactions, smart environments under the Internet of Things, and consumer interactions with automated bots and voice assistants, even with augmented reality, all rely on the exchange of data.
We’ve already seen a positive trend in the growth of APIs in travel, and can expect API activity to intensify this year.
If we’re going to enjoy the seamless travel experience we read and write about every day, then data integration through APIs is a critical requirement.
So what are the API developments to look out for in 2018?
#1: True travel globalization
It may seem odd to say that travel has some globalization issues to address, because it is inherently a global industry, but its foundations are built on data silos which still need to be torn down. The market has been advancing towards better integration—though perhaps not fast enough—but a watershed point is near. Initiatives between stakeholders in different continents are supporting mobile retail trends and erasing borders. There is no good reason why a traveller in Beijing or another in Silicon Valley or a third in Stockholm should have to struggle with incomplete information to plan their journey or run in circles to pay for their bookings. Expect APIs to eliminate more of this friction in 2018.
#2: More from the NDC XML-standard API
IATA has followed through on its commitment to improve data exchange for aviation through its NDC standard. After obtaining a commitment from all three of the top GDSs to adopt the standard, so expect an acceleration of adoption by airlines and more creative solutions to develop this year.
#3: Flexible retailing
Lufthansa’s Open API introduced last year is an example of how travel services providers can improve the flexibility of their retail flow. The airline allows developers to sell tickets on their own platforms and earn commissions from those sales, and plans to introduce ancillary sales too.
There are a number of retail opportunities made possible by API integration, including the up-selling of products and services at the point in the journey when they are most likely to be needed.
#4: Improved customer recognition
Seamless data exchange supports continuity of service and we can expect it to translate into better customer recognition when interacting on different platforms. As an example, Finnair picked Amadeus’ Digital Retail API last year to keep shopping carts open when customers walk away from the transaction, so that the booking details are still available when they return, even months later. This recognizes that consumers may go through different steps when planning their trips and may not be ready to push the booking button immediately.
#5: Better CRM
APIs will support better customer relationship management too, through chatbots and voice attendants. With travel providers focused on staying in touch with customers wherever they may be, through whatever platform customers prefer, we can expect APIs to play a more important role in the conversation.
#6: Support for the multi-modal future
It’s not just digital interactions which are evolving in travel. The journey is also being re-shaped by multi-modal transport. Some airports are preparing for a future of mobility as a service (MaaS) by opening up their APIs to partners in support of seamless travel. IATA and ACI’s announcement of the NEXTT initiative, which aims to move more journey transactions off-airport, to multi-modal transport way-points, will likely lead to more API platforms opening up.
#7: More Hackathons
Hackathons have been positive for travel and we expect to see more of them this year. They bring fresh perspectives from independent developers working with travel stakeholders. IATA has taken a lead with its NDC hackathon, which grew out of its partnership with tnooz. Meanwhile, our own first hackathon of the year, in collaboration with HEDNA and HomeAway, focusing on hospitality solutions, is scheduled January 27-28 in Austin, Texas. See you there!