Introducing OCTo — Standardization for the Tours and Activities Industry

By Kyla Steeves

Booking Management

Open Connectivity for Touruism

Over the last decade, the tours and activities industry has grown, connecting travelers to in-destination experiences across the world. But as the third-largest travel segment continues to make its way online, there remains a complex challenge of connecting operators to multiple technology platforms. And Checkfront wants to do something about it.

As a founding member of the Open Connectivity for Tourism (OCTo), we’re so excited to announce the launch of the OCTo Specification — a standard API specification for software providers and resellers to use going forward. With others invested in the industry’s future, we hope to strengthen connectivity, drive innovation, and help operators list their products and take bookings wherever they want online.

What is OCTo?

Made up of technology companies in tours and activities — including booking platforms, online travel agencies (OTAs), channel managers, and more — OCTo is an initiative that plans to tackle the current fragmentation within the industry. Working together, OCTo has already developed the first version of an open-source API. 

With OCToSpec, technology partners can start communicating with each other better by speaking the same language. In other words, those who use the standard specification will be able to map inventory and availability between systems without a customized integration, while making it easier to pass and harness data for innovation. 

For operators, standardization ultimately means simplified distribution and increased opportunities. Instead of manually uploading products in pieces across platforms, they can quickly plug their inventory in one sweep. As OCToSpec becomes more widely adopted, they’ll also gain access to a broader online travel ecosystem with their current booking system.

In the coming year, all contributing members of OCTo will implement the specification in their booking flow or have a reference in place. Any company or organization can view the specification, download the API, share feedback, and join (memberships coming soon). 

Why is OCToSpec much-needed?

While it’s exciting to see the in-destination industry take off, the scramble to get online has resulted in a set of APIs as diverse as the tours and activities themselves. Now that new marketplaces and software solutions are popping up everywhere, integrations are becoming too messy and complicated. Consolidation is necessary before it gets worse.

Of course, other travel segments went through the same sort of growing pains before us. We know that standardization is inevitable and possible, but the tours and activities sector comes with unique challenges in comparison. For instance, the variables involved are far more nuanced than say a hotel room or car rental. 

Within the market alone, plenty of niche-specific verticals fall under day tours, multi-day excursions, activities, attractions and events. And there are hundreds of thousands of small operators who run their business and offer products that are very different from the next. Agreeing on a universal language to explain all of the subtleties is no easy feat. 

On top of that, travelers increasingly want bespoke travel experiences, and most are looking online, via multiple channels, usually last-minute. Meeting their expectations will require helping them find what they’re looking for instantly, with a way to compare relevant offerings beyond grouping everything as things to do.

That said, there’s still a lot of work ahead for the industry, but with the launch of OCToSpec, we’re one step closer to improving connections all around — connecting travelers to experiences, operators to distributors, and technology partners to each other.

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