What is OCTo and Why We’ve Adopted the API Specification


May 11, 2021

3 min read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Over the past decade, the in-destination experience sector has undergone a significant boom with players like tour operators, online travel agencies (OTAs), and booking technology partners entering the space.

The landscape is crowded. More players in the game mean more variables and more custom API infrastructures to consider. It has made collaboration and interoperability increasingly difficult.

The Problem at Hand: A Fragmented Industry

Take this analogy: Imagine you were placed in a room with hundreds of others. Each person comes from a different background, speaks a different language and has a unique frame of reference. With the same group, you’re tasked to complete a multi-stepped project together. 

Fact is, it’d be difficult to communicate. The whole process would be incredibly inefficient and unproductive. We’d wager that you’d most likely not want to work together and relive that experience again.

In the tours and activities world, companies of varying sizes may be operating with different connectivity standards. Partners operating on custom APIs built with differing specifications and definitions add an extra layer of complexity, making the experience a lot more challenging than it needs to be. 

And to further complicate things, the industry struggled with a once-in-a-century pandemic to cap off the decade. Plans for the industry to come together and directly address concerns around fragmentation and connectivity have taken a back seat as priorities shifted. But, it’s still a long-standing issue that needs to be addressed.

The Origins of OCTo Open API

In 2019, a group of in-destination activity partners banded together (Zaui included!) to tackle the issue by collaboratively developing an industry-standard API specification.

Enter Open Connectivity for Tourism (OCTo)—an open standard API Specification for the tourism community.

The founding members of OCTo wanted to build an API specification with an agreed-upon set of core capabilities and features commonly needed when connecting booking platforms, resellers, OTAs, and other technologies. Speed, performance, and interoperability were also key components in building this framework.

The specification is the first version of the OCTo Spec, built by the community for the community.

OCTo Spec: The One API Standard to Rule Them All

In a nutshell, the OCTo Open API is an operational and inventory specification that enables technology partners to communicate with each other in the same language. 

Having a standard API ensures a common taxonomy in how core functionalities and parameters are defined and how inventory is being handled and mapped. It effectively simplifies the digital distribution experience. 

Technology partners who have adopted the OCTo Spec can benefit from using one universal language to communicate between systems, streamlining the product mapping, inventory check and request processes. 

OCTo also helps minimize inefficiencies and errors and reduces the time and costs for integration. Having a standard and completing the first integration build via OCTo will significantly cut down on time and expenses spent on building additional future integrations. An open API standard eliminates barriers for collaboration formerly associated with a diverse set of Tour APIs. 

At the end of the day, OCTo makes it easier (and less costly!) for buyers and sellers to do business together.

Adopting OCTo at Zaui: Fostering Innovation & Building Partnerships

By adopting the OCTO Spec as our chosen API for connecting to our partners, we’re committed to continually learning, developing, and advancing the specifications to fit unique business models that we work with every day. And we strive to extend new capabilities to meet ever-evolving business requirements.

As part of this adoption effort, we’ve compiled and updated our developer docs to include OCTo API specifications for attractions, activities and tour products. We’re optimistic that with industry adoption of this standard, we’ll be able to push the bounds of innovation in the in-destination market even further, together.

More on OCTo Specification and Zaui

In addition to implementing the core OCTo specification, we’ve provided capabilities around content, pricing, and pickups. 

We’ve also extended implementation for our transportation partners to support Ground Transportation (Locations and Connections) using the same specification.

The documentation will enable our distribution and technology partners to connect with Zaui, and easily map inventory, availability between systems, and pass along data to help advance connectivity and digital distribution in tours, activities and transportation sectors.

In closing, OCTo isn’t a silver bullet in terms of addressing ALL fragmentation issues. Still, at the end of the day, it’s the first step in bridging the gap, building better business relationships, and moving the industry forward in lockstep.

For resellers and developers who’d like to connect with Zaui, head over to our developer documentation here.

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