Official Post by Travelport
When it comes to selling multi-source content, it can be tricky to separate the EDI-FACTs from the NDC fiction. There’s a lot to get your head around — especially since it’s a new(ish) thing — but we’re here to help. Let’s start by breaking down some common misconceptions about NDC.
MYTH 1 — NDC IS A WAY TO CUT OUT TRAVEL DISTRIBUTORS
Travelport’s view: NDC is just another content source, that distributors play a key role in managing.
You might have heard that NDC is going to completely upend the way travel is bought and sold. Sure, it’s changing the way things are done in the industry. But for agencies, NDC is really just another content source, like EDIFACT, ATPCO, or LCC.
Contrary to the myth, NDC is not about bypassing travel distributors (like us). If anything, it amplifies the need for someone to sort through even more offers with even more nuanced differences. For that reason, distributors provide suppliers with a vastly more critical service now than it did before NDC.
MYTH 2 — MORE NDC CONTENT MEANS IRRELEVANT CLUTTER ON MY SCREEN
Travelport’s view: More content is a good thing, but only if you’ve got the right technology to manage it.
If this statement rings true for you, it’s time to switch travel retailing technology. NDC is opening up a lot of new content in the market, but that should be a good thing — as it will eventually enable more personalization. If you’re seeing irrelevant content, it means your technology isn’t doing its job.
One of the goals of NDC is to improve merchandizing in the indirect (the agency) channel. It’s about presenting the right airline offers in as much detail and with the same level of choice as you’d find when going direct. At Travelport, we make this content retail ready by normalizing it and adding to it behind the scenes. We use rich text, images, and other details that go beyond the basic information and makes things easier to sell. This helps consumers find the right product for the right price, which is very different from the cheapest product.
MYTH 3 — IF I CAN BOOK NDC OFFERS, I’VE GOT NDC SORTED
Travelport’s view: Booking alone is not enough, agents need to be able to service NDC trips too.
Being able to book offers is only the first phase of NDC. Content isn’t truly retail-ready if you can’t service that content with full end-to-end capabilities. Not only that, but in order to even make a booking the agent has to be able to understand and compare it in the first place.
Some technology providers talk a good game with how many suppliers they have connected and ready to book. But what use is that if it’s un-serviceable post booking? At Travelport, we’re not taking any shortcuts. We’ve rolled up our sleeves to ensure the best agent and traveler experience on NDC trips, from start to finish, via Smartpoint Cloud, Desktop plug-in, and via our API.
MYTH 4 — NDC IS JUST A DISTRIBUTION STANDARD AND ISN’T ABOUT RETAILING
Travelport’s view: NDC is just one aspect of a much bigger, industry-wide drive to modern retailing.
Why is this needed? Well, because airline products have changed a lot in the last 20 years. The number of possible choices has grown and become more complex, and this will continue as suppliers make products more dynamic and more personalized.
We’ve been working closely with Travelport on NDC, and we’re really excited about the progress it’s making.
Nathan Smeulders, Senior Manager, Distribution at Qantas
Done right, NDC should improve the retailing experience. It should remove what are today manual processes and introduce more automation, especially in the area of servicing. Our perspective is that it shouldn’t damage any shopping or customer servicing experience vs where we are today, and that’s why we continue to work with suppliers worldwide to close the gaps that exist in their NDC programs.
MYTH 5 — NDC JUST GIVES ME CHEAPER OFFERS. I CAN FIND THOSE MYSELF.
Travelport’s view: NDC is about more than just competitive offers, it’s about personalization, choice, and so much more.
Going forward, suppliers are going to make their most competitive offers, as well as standard fares, available through NDC. The bottom line is: if you’re not connected, you’ll miss out.
Beyond price, NDC is also about personalization, choice, and so much more. Consumers today don’t necessarily want the lowest price. And, they don’t necessarily just want the lowest price, they want the best price for the right offer for them. Be it more leg-room, extra baggage, or other additional tweaks to their booking. Understanding that value isn’t just about price is a really important aspect of modern retailing. And including NDC in your content portfolio is a way for agencies to create that value.
MYTH 6 — NDC WILL NEVER HAPPEN.
Travelport’s view: NDC is taking time to implement, but now is still the moment to do it.
NDC is a journey. And yes, it’s true that that journey has been going slower than hoped. But change is rarely straightforward. And remember: when NDC came into existence, the EDIFACT standard was already a quarter century old. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect that NDC could, in a few years, perform the exact same way. EDIFACT has had a 35-year head start, so it’s naturally going to take NDC more time to make every single feature and capability universally available to travel agents.
NDC gives the travel industry a chance to rethink some of the things we’ve been doing over and over again for decades.
Tom Kershaw, Chief Technology Officer at Travelport
But significant progress has been made, and even in its infancy, NDC content is becoming easier and easier to shop, book, and service. When it began first, the focus was on offers and fares, but that focus is now shifting to servicing. This is the beginning of the transition of PNRs to simplified orders so air travel can become like any other modern industry.
MYTH 7 — EDIFACT IS DEAD
Travelport’s view: We’re now in a multi-source content world, one that EDIFACT is still a big part of.
You may have heard that NDC is replacing traditional GDS content, like EDIFACT. The truth is, rather, that we are now in a multi-source world, where successful agency retailing requires effective aggregation of both NDC and EDIFACT sources — along with many others.
It’s not so much about which source is better, it’s more about building a portfolio of content. Not just NDC and EDIFACT, but ATPCO, LCC, Hotel etc too. And that also means, having the right technology to make it all retail ready.
MYTH 8 — I HAVE TO HANDLE EACH AIRLINE’S NDC DIFFERENTLY
Travelport’s view: Your retailing technology should be doing that for you.
NDC content is still in its infancy, and suppliers are working to differentiate their content in a way that suits them and what they feel is right for the traveler. While adoption gathers pace, they’re releasing different content types, capabilities, and servicing rules.
We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it’s your technology provider’s job to make the various connections uniform (or ‘normalized’ as it’s referred to technically), and ready to work with. At Travelport, we’re also working with IATA and other industry Partners to standardize delivery formats, making it easier and faster for new carriers and ancillaries to be rolled out.
WHY NOW IS THE TIME TO GET MOVING ON NDC
Like a lot of things in life, it’s easy for agencies to put NDC on the back burner. And who could blame them, given that travel is still struggling with understaffing, new post-COVID challenges, and the perceived technological complexity of NDC. And the truth is: for agencies it doesn’t really matter what the content source is. What matters is the offer.
But in time, the number of suppliers with NDC will only continue to grow (there’s 50+ now on IATA ARM program) and this will mean much more work to implement and maintain. That’s why now is the time to get onboard, especially as travelers increasingly expect a personalized service. To do that, you need a technology partner that can make multi-source content manageable.
At Travelport, we’ve fully enabled NDC on our platform, including all the voluntary and involuntary servicing scenarios. We’ve been doing this for years, and we’ll keep our foot to the floor on NDC.
What sets us apart in this space is that we’re building NDC for agencies. Where others take a purely supply-side focus, we’re focused on making it fast and easy to work with for travel’s true retailers — agencies. And by the end of 2023, we expect to have already implemented NDC with airlines representing fully one third of our total air booking volume.
Want to know more? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.
NDC helps agencies sell more distinctive, unique, and personalized air offers. But it needs to be combined with other content to create a modern retailing experience.