Hotelbeds, part of TUI Travel PLC’s Accommodations & Destinations (TUI Travel A&D) sector, sells roughly 16 million roomnights per year through a global partner network of 50,000 hotels in 183 countries, making it the industry leader in accommodation wholesale.
Room bookings, however, represent only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of daily transactions Hotelbeds generates. Hotelbeds’ global customer base of industry players — such as tour operators and online travel agents — expects up-to-the-minute information when purchasing accommodation and destination services like room bookings, online travel services, and excursions.
For Hotelbeds to remain an industry leader, it is imperative to meet this expectation not only to satisfy increasing customer demands, but also to drive lower internal costs. For many of Hotelbeds’ approximately 6,000 employees in 130 offices worldwide, this means they need data-driven information at their fingertips, and they need to be able to effectively manage that information to identify and adapt to constantly changing market trends.
Having the capability to store data across the organization with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) and report on it with SAP BusinessObjects solutions has helped Hotelbeds become the travel services market leader, as it is able to leverage this wealth of global knowledge to provide unmatched service and prices at the local level.
With the amount of collected data continuing to skyrocket — especially with its double-digit growth — Hotelbeds knew it needed to adapt its systems landscape to keep pace. So much business intelligence (BI) data was generated that customer acquisition records, for example, often had to be split. Information about the customer was kept in one record and information on the customer’s supply was kept in another, making it difficult to derive actionable analytics.
“Our primary goal was to speed up our reporting. Some reports had been taking up to 30 minutes to calculate, and with today’s technology, we knew we could have those reports in seconds,” says Juan de Dios García, Head of Information Technology for TUI Travel A&D, B2B Division. “We didn’t want to settle for less than that, but we also needed the capacity to manage the additional information. With our continued growth, scalability was very important, so we needed a solution that could scale along with the growth in demand for services.”
Preparing for Takeoff
For these reasons, Hotelbeds was looking to better support and supercharge its SAP landscape. A comprehensive vendor search led Hotelbeds to partner with Cisco and its Unified Computing System (UCS) data center solutions, an optimized hardware infrastructure that could deliver the speed and insight into business operations that Hotelbeds was seeking. Another key factor in the selection was that the high-performance UCS servers could deploy and run the SAP HANA platform to power the company’s BI suite. The ability to support SAP HANA was a key factor in Cisco winning the business. (For more information about the Cisco UCS server platform, see the sidebar to the right.)
“The solution was scalable and easy to manage and maintain, and a main consideration was proven support for SAP HANA, which we saw as giving us the ability to deliver our services on demand,” García says.
The virtualization capabilities offered as part of the solution was another consideration. According to Hotelbeds, virtualization is a trend that has significant implications for the company. Hotelbeds can manage its full pack of servers around SAP NetWeaver BW in a very easy way with a single station. A single operator can manage everything, so at the end, the company is not only reducing costs in terms of running the servers, but also in terms of maintenance.
One of the biggest challenges of the implementation, according to Hotelbeds, was balancing a “crawl, walk, run” approach with a relatively speedy hardware upgrade. The overhauled system was ready to deliver while the business was still trying to make sense of the volume of data coming its way. As one of the first SAP HANA customers in Europe, and the first SAP reference on UCS throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Hotelbeds had no way to know for sure what the results would look like — despite full support from both Cisco and SAP.
“The transition to the solution was both shorter and longer than expected,” says García. “By that I mean the implementation of the solution was very quick — about three months — in part because we were a ramp-up customer, which meant we received a great deal of support. The tricky part, though, was consolidating results to ensure the information we were delivering was consistent with the old system. We had both solutions running in parallel to compare the information we were getting.”
Seeing New Sights
After confirming the consistency of the data, the Hotelbeds team quickly found that their requirement for increased speed was met. Whereas previously it took a few hours to extract several million records from SAP NetWeaver BW and analyze it, powering the solution on SAP HANA gave Hotelbeds the ability to analyze millions of records in seconds.
Increased speed, though, is only as beneficial as what the business can do with it. For Hotelbeds, it meant the near real-time ability to adjust to ever-changing market trends, such as analyzing sales volume or cancellation trends at a certain destination, for example, and reacting immediately.
“With a more intense focus on sales across different destinations and markets, we can manage our margins or our product offerings much more accurately,” García says. “Recognizing and adjusting to the market with such speed gives us a much faster return on investment on the actions we’re taking based on that real-time information.”
Another key improvement for the company is that, in addition to processing the enterprise data more quickly, powering SAP NetWeaver BW on SAP HANA enabled Hotelbeds to consolidate data in single reports. Now, end users can look at customer acquisition data, for example, from the customer’s perspective and then immediately look at it from the supply perspective.
According to Hotelbeds, another benefit has been agility and customization. Previously, peripheral reports limited customization. By managing those hundreds of millions of records in memory, it allows users to customize reports on the fly, so the benefit isn’t just faster results, it’s the ability to perform as much customization of the information as they want.
Speed combined with deeper analysis drove the project value for Hotelbeds. More than just being able to react in real time to trends, that level of customization created an even more valuable opportunity: the chance to shape the market. Data can tell you what’s happening, but the company can now conceivably discover the reasons behind it.
“It’s the next level of information,” says García. “We not only have more accurate data than before, but we can manage that data with much more detail because we can do a refresh of information in real time.”
“With a more intense focus on sales across different destinations and markets, we can manage our margins or our product offerings much more accurately. Recognizing and adjusting to the market with such speed gives us a much faster return on investment on the actions we’re taking based on that real-time information.”
— Juan de Dios García, Head of Information Technology, TUI Travel A&D, B2B Division
Planning Another Trip
With Hotelbeds’ success with SAP NetWeaver BW powered by SAP HANA, TUI Travel A&D’s plan is to consolidate all of its data within SAP NetWeaver BW. “We’re consolidating more and more systems and information into SAP NetWeaver BW because one of the project’s aims is to offer a single BI system that holds everything so there is one point of information,” García says.