Application: Web/ecommerce; OLTP; Global airline/travel agent hotel
Partners: Computer Science Corp
Informix Products: Informix-Online Dynamic Server, Informix-4GL,
Amanagement organization’s stock in trade
is its employees. That means that success lies in continually improving employee
productivity and access to services-an equation that Hyatt Hotels and Resorts understands
well. To support its changing business requirements, Hyatt launched a major initiative to
upgrade and expand its computing and communication infrastructure-moving Hyatt to the
forefront in hospitality information systems. With its new Informix-based SPIRIT Central
Reservation System and ecommerce capabilities, Hyatt improves the speed and accuracy of
its reservations systems, reduces costs and positions itself for the future. The power
behind this innovative information architecture is Informix-Online Dynamic Server.
A working partnership
Hyatt is a global hospitality provider with more than 271 properties in 40
countries. Hyatt and IT partnered together in 1989 and the partnership has remained strong
even as Hyatt’s information technology division became part of Computer Sciences Corp
(CSC). Today, CSC manages Hyatt’s information requirements and commercializes its
computing solutions for the hospitality industry.
“We continually evaluate the
marketplace,” says Scott Andersen, Director of technology for CSC, “and we feel
that Informix has the best product and service offering for 24 by 7, mission-critical
operating environments. For example, the ability to perform online backup is crucial. We
also need a highly scalable database and an open systems platform. That’s why we stayed
with Informix to help us upgrade and expand the SPIRT Central Reservation System.”
Getting into the spirt of change
The Spirit Central Reservation System was originally codeveloped by Informix, AT&T and
Hyatt in 1990 to provide reservations access to travel agents, to each Hyatt Hotel and to
airline reservations staff. At the system’s core was Informix-Online Dynamic Server.
Approximately 150 users accessed the travel reservation system via dumb terminals, where
they could obtain a status on room inventory and rates. When travel agents wanted to
actually book reservations for Hyatt, they booked against inventory quoted in the airline
system. Then, a hard copy of the booking would come to Hyatt’s reservation staff on a
printer, where the information was input to the SPIRIT system database and finally a
confirmation was returned to the airline system for the travel agent. The entire process
required 48 hours.
“Approximately 25% of our business
came from the airline systems and we could only status a handful of rates,” explained
Joan Lowell, VP, of Electronic Distribution Marketing Hyatt. “The old SPIRIT system
couldn’t handle the growing volume of business rates we quoted. Business rates are
negotiated and base rates must be available to travel agents who are booking companies’
business.” The SPIRIT system clearly offered a valuable service, but significant
upgrading was required to support the company’s future business objectives.
More than just an upgrade
“Our goal was to make SPIRIT the only way to book a reservation
worldwide,” explains Andersen, “and that meant going to a system that could
support more than 1,000 users and provide electronic interfaces to travel agents and the
airline systems.” With a seamless connection and common interface to the SPIRIT
system for all users, Hyatt could provide access for more distribution channels, increase
booking efficiency and improve room inventory management.
Hyatt migrated to Informix-Online Dynamic
Server on a Sequent platform to increase the system’s capacity from 250 to 1,000 users.
The SPIRIT application itself is written in Informix-4GL. Informix-ESQL/C provides
interfaces to a wide range of global distribution systems, including the SABRE System,
Apollo, Galileo, World Span and the internet. This enables travel agents to book flights,
rental cars and hotel rooms using any of the global distribution systems. Even with
extensive planning, however, Andersen and his team at CSC weren’t prepared for what
happened next. During the system’s rollout to accommodate a larger base of users, demand
on the server exploded. Analysis revealed that inquiries coming from the web and airline
reservations systems had increased exponentially, sending Andersen searching for a
solution to cope with the unexpected volume.
Enterprise replication saves the
“We had the largest, most powerful Unix platforms available, with every slot
full and the volumes was still over-whelming,” says Andersen. “We had worked
with Sequent and Informix to come up with an innovative solution. The solution turned out
to be Informix’s Enterprise Replication.”
The central Sequent platform was upgraded to increase capacity. Using Informix Enterprise
Replication software, key aspects of the SPIRIT reservation database in Oakbrook,
Illinois, were replicated to a second, read-only Sequent configuration located in Omaha,
Nebraska, to support electronic inquiries and bookings.
“Hyatt is the world’s largest user of
Informix Enterprise Replication,” says Andersen, “and it works. Replication
makes sense for us.”
Today the SPIRIT system is a state-of-the-art reservations system for the
hospitality industry. Inventory and rate inquiries from the web and airline reservations
systems arrive at the Omaha server while the Chicago system’s capacity is preserved for
hotel and reservation center users. An unlimited number of rate combinations enhance
agents abilities to book corporate customers. Hyatt can now build applications in modular
form; perform online maintenance, charge rates and inventory values; and accommodate new
properties as hotels are acquired-all without programmers.
The increased use of electronic booking and
confirmation-far more economical than maintaining multiple 800 numbers- has significantly
reduced costs. Today, 90% of travel agents use electronic confirmation, up from 50% just
two years ago. In addition, travel agents who once booked rooms through individual
properties now use the central reservation system, contributing $900 million in revenue in
Lowell reports that the Informix
application has also improved call center productivity. Higher call volumes are supported
without increased headcount. Rate queries are answered in as few as eight seconds-a far
cry from the industry’s 20-30 seconds average. In addition, the percentage of telephone
calls that actually convert to a reservation has increased from 25 to 30%.
There’s a new spirit of excitement
Hyatt will increasingly leverage its ecommerce capabilities. Agents can currently
book through TravelWeb (www.travelweb.hyatt.com), but Hyatt plans to add more
hotel-specific information as well as maps and travel information services via the web.
“Informix is the only thing we
run-centrally and in every property,” says Andersen. “We have 19 production
databases, in addition to spirit. And we have a terabyte of disk space.”