It’s overwhelming how much technology transforms the way we travel. Mobile check-ins increase customer satisfaction tenfold, content from travel brands helps travelers make a final decision about destinations, and the whole 83 percent of millennials don’t bother about personal data sharing as long as it gives them the desired personalization. AR tours, data-driven flight shopping, Alexa in hotel rooms – this is just the tip of the TravelTech iceberg. Here, on Techtalks, you can discover new opportunities for your travel business, ask about the integration of certain technology, and of course – help others by sharing your experiences and reviews. Let’s grow the TravelTech community together.
There’s no best software for all. It may depend on the type of hotel you run and the kind of property management system you have. There are several market leaders that fit large hotel chains, independent hotels, and even those who have a private home for rent.
The market leaders are SiteMinder and Cloudbeds. Both have large pools of distribution channels, Airbnb connection (not all channel managers have this one) and can integrate with many PMSs.
PMS integration must be the first criteria of choice if you have one. For midsize and large businesses, other essential things would be real-time property updates to avoid overbooking, analytics, and centralized content management to update hotel info across all channels. SiteMinder, Cloudbeds, STAAH, and eZee fit these criteria.
For small property owners and vacation rentals, you may look for Airbnb integration and well… low price. E.g. eZee Centrix and Lodgable look like the cheapest options for properties with 10 rooms. Lodgable is actually free for its main features and caters to vacation rentals.
We have a broad review of the main platforms in our article about channel management, so you may check this one as well.
Hello everyone. I want to make an app for my shop, so I`m interested in a qualified web application development team/service, which can help me.
I have to choose AWS partner for my company to manage cloud infrastructure. Could you please recommend how to choose the best outsourcing partner focused on the AWS platform?
Recently I've been put in charge of testing and implementing WCAG 2.0 AA compliance into our websites (PHP CMS based). However, my experience with this is pretty limited. My questions are:
Is Mac VoiceOver sufficient enough to test?
Should I test with JAWS on Windows instead?
Any tools besides the VO's I should be using while developing and QAing our products?
I use the Wave tool as of now to check code, but not sure if there anything else that could help this process speed up.
Thank you for your suggestions and help. This is a big step for us and we are hoping to create a standard where accessibility and compliance is 2nd nature to us and our devs.
What are the basic requirement and approaches you will follow for any software testing project?
Thank you for your interest.
First, let’s unravel the payment processing flow.
You described the business model where a travel agency is accepting direct payments from customers and functions as a merchant of record. Adding a commission to the net-price, an OTA charges the client. Usually, an agency integrates a payment gateway to process payments.
In more detail, payment processing works like this:
When the money is on the agency’s account, it pays the supplier its share. In the case of flights, OTAs must be IATA-accredited to pay airlines directly. Small OTAs aren’t usually certified, so they leverage a consolidator as a payment mediator between them and an airline.
But if an OTA doesn’t function as a merchant, usually, it redirects to a supplier (in case of a direct distribution) or a larger OTA like Expedia or Booking.com for a transaction. According to this business model, OTAs get paid their percentage of the total price at the end of the month. Payment processing isn’t on their shoulders so they don’t owe commissions to payment gateways.
Expedia, for instance, provides EPS Checkout - a white-label solution that collects credit card data and then transmits it to EPS servers where the data is validated and stored.
Distributing hotels, some agencies list the rooms and allow customers only to book but pay already at the property. So that the hotel will pay back the OTA the contracted commission after the check-out.
Your second inquiry was about cost-efficient payment processors.
Setting up a payment gateway is lucrative in case your OTA has a large payment volume:
The more transactions a gateway processes, the less percent it charges per card. Hence, an OTA with about 5000 transactions per month will pay a higher commission per transaction than an OTA with 50000 transactions.
There’s a great number of payment gateways but they offer a similar set of services for a fairly similar price. So, we wouldn’t say that looking for a cheaper payment gateway can save you a lot of money. What really can be a game-changer is negotiating competitive rates and deals with end-product suppliers. Besides leveraging GDS generic deals, it’s necessary to extend your own pool of providers ready to work with you on exclusive conditions. You can read more marketing tips for travel agencies in our article.
All in all, defining a payment processing strategy is a complex task. So, you may want to get in touch with our sales team for further discussion.
As for Kayak, its API is available to platforms that generate over 100,000 monthly visitors.
To begin with, we recommend having a look at our article where we describe a wide choice of hotel APIs. Here, we’ll describe the main providers of hotel information APIs without booking capabilities.
If you’re not looking for rich visual content but only the key information, have a look at Global Distribution Systems. Although they cover a large inventory of hotels, they provide quite limited services.
Amadeus self-service Hotel Search API. The Amadeus hotel database includes over 650k properties. The API returns hotel rates, name, address, room type, amenities list, and other hotel information. Results can be filtered by hotel category, hotel chain name, facilities or budget.
Sabre Hotel Availability API comprises 175k properties and returns their status, pricing, booking policy rules, restrictions, inventory, images, descriptions, and policies.
Another option would be bed banks as they’re buying hotel rooms in bulk and reselling them for a fixed price.
Hotel Content API by Hotelbeds. This wholesaler covers 180k hotels in almost every country in the world. Its Content API provides rich content with descriptions, room facilities, bed types, etc. in static and dynamic formats.
Cosmos API by HotelsPro. The rich content of about 600k hotels which comes automatically mapped.
Good question and you’re right, there’s a lot to learn and do when starting an OTA. First, let us recommend a video series we’ve been doing where our Travel Technology Competence Leader Andrey Chebotarov talks about OTAs basics, booking engines, commission engines, and so on. It should be helpful.
Now, there are four main things you should focus on for a new OTA.
First is the inventory and access to it. Contact your suppliers for exclusive prices and conditions that will make you stand out among other booking websites.
Second is IATA, ARC, or CLIA compliance. Here’s our detailed article on IATA accreditation that will guide you step by step and explain your options.
Third is a smart marketing strategy. This covers your SEO and communication strategies, and even integration with metasearch sites. Again, here’s an article that should clear a lot of things out.
And fourth is the technology. That’s your search, booking, and commission engines that should all work effectively together to bring your and your customers the most value.
Let us know if you have any specific questions here or in person at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for this insightful question.
Every flight search API has access to airline schedules that include connecting airports. But not always this API is capable of processing stopover requests.
Pulling flight data from Global Distribution Systems, you can set a stopover airport as an additional search parameter. So the API will return you only the flights with the leg in the selected airport.
Also, you can do it from your side: Once the itineraries are retrieved via the API, сreate a business rule for this data that will execute filtering by the stopover airport.
There’s also some support at online travel agencies (Skyscanner, Priceline, etc). To access those, you normally must use affiliate partner contacts. Finally, one of the largest car rental suppliers, Avis, has a public API.
Besides APIs, many suppliers support affiliate links and banners, if that works for you. You may check car rental connectivity options in our article in more detail.
Thank you for the question.
Airlines used to pay commissions to travel agencies for reselling their tickets but they rarely do it today. Commission cuts started in the 2000s and these days they’ve been brought down almost to zero. Though, airlines still give agencies a productivity-linked incentive of two percent on average.
If not commissions than what?
These days, OTAs rather make money by topping the flight price with markups. OTA’s commission engine adjusts markup sizes depending on a number of factors like current demand, competition, season, etc.
Agencies have other income streams like service fees, consultation or planning fees, insurance costs. In addition, OTAs provide other services like hotels or car rentals where the commission situation is more favorable.
Besides that, OTAs have agreements with some airlines that allow them to negotiate more favorable terms for selling their tickets. Usually, it means aligning with a host agency or consortium.
Yes, ATPCO would be the first place to go to get fare classes. Unfortunately, we haven’t worked with their API directly. Also, have you checked Kiwi API? They provide fare basis, fare family, and fare class info.
Thanks for asking.
In the API integration, there are two parties. So how you establish the connection will depend on what you are attempting to achieve and the API you pick.
First, you. What’s your flight website? Do you want to enable booking or only provide flight-related information to your users? Are you targeting specific regions or want to service worldwide? Not in the last place are such constraints as budget and resources. Based on these facts you’ll be choosing an API with the corresponding capabilities and coverage.
Whether you choose to integrate with a GDS, a tech service provider, an OTA, or a metasearch, the process will differ. For instance, GDS will feed you pools of raw airline data, while OTAs and metasearch have it sorted out but in their own way. If you haven’t settled on the API provider yet, read our article about flight booking APIs.
Once you know the platform you’d like to pull data from, go through its API documentation and play around with its test version, if it’s available. You’ll need an HTTP client to make calls to the API.
Now that you’re sure your website will benefit from using this API, obtain the API key for access and find out if the provider assists with integration or offers a pre-built API connection. If not, you may involve a third-party integrator. Prior to the release, make sure to validate the API responses from your side.
We at AltexSoft specialize in travel APIs integration. Only recently, we’ve rebuilt an OTA’s booking engine integrating Amadeus GDS into it. So you can specify your situation to us and we can give you more tailored advice.
We can tell you’ve done quite a research on this topic. And we feel you.
The functionality of Amadeus’ self-service API has a number of limitations. But the reality is that it’s the only self-service API available among the global distribution systems. Other GDS solutions are truly legacy cumbersome systems. And that’s one of the key hindrances to smooth airline distribution.
As for Skyscanner, you’re right. On a case by case basis they accept only those businesses capable of generating traffic and attracting users. So if you’re only setting your foot in the travel industry, chances are you might not hear from them soon, if at all. In addition, Skyscanner API won’t allow for facilitating bookings as it’s a metasearch.
Now, regarding ATPCO, the main fares provider. In terms of the traditional flight distribution, ATPCO is an intermediary that transmits tariffs from an airline to a GDS.
ATPCO’s JSON Routehappy API has direct connections with GDSs and some airlines. Akin to Skyscanner, they won’t enable booking capabilities. The API access involves monthly payments starting from $2,500, which may not fit into the budget.
If your distribution market isn’t too big, you may try connecting to each airline directly avoiding GDS. If you decide to follow this path, you’ll need to adopt the New Distribution Capability XML standard.
As you can see, many scenarios are possible in your case. As we have extensive experience in building OTAs, we surely can give you good advice, to say the least. But for this purpose, we’ll need to dive deeper into your situation. So why don’t we keep our communication in DMs? Contact our sales team and they’ll sync you with our best experts.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for building a price comparison tool.
You may think of web scraping - extracting prices using crawlers. But be aware that it will entail a lot of headache such as inventory consistency and even lawsuits.
A legal way of doing so is to get OTAs’ permission to source their prices. By partnering with Expedia, you’ll get access to its EPS Rapid Shopping API that returns available rooms with live rates and other details like promos, rate refundability, cancellation penalties, etc.
As for Booking.com, they offer Demand API that allows for retrieving live rates and availability. However, they prohibit the affiliates to use their property content for price comparison. But maybe you’ll manage to find a way around that through the direct communication with the OTA.
After you’ve affiliated with these hospitality giants, next comes inventory mapping. And here hotel mapping providers may be of help to you. They’ll take care that the prices are correct and all the hotel-related data is aligned eliminating any duplicates.
Once you connect to a hotel’s channel manager and the OTAs via their APIs from one side, and to a hotel mapping provider’s API from the other side, you’re all set to build your price comparison widget. Alternatively, you can turn to a tech company like AltexSoft, so that we can do it for you.
White label and an API are two different solutions which serve a similar purpose - communication between the two platforms.
White label is a ready-made unbranded template that you can deploy on your website and it will link you to the provider of certain services. So now your customers won’t need to leave your site as they can access what they need from your page. Additionally, you can tailor a white label to match your brand. This way your customers won’t tell that it’s not a part of your website but a third-party template.
An example of a travel white labeled product is a template solution by Expedia that allows for adding their accommodation bookings to your website. You can read more about it in our article about Expedia Partner Solutions.
Working in the back end, an API pulls out the requested data from external servers and displays it on your side in your way. This means that you design your own interface and use the data only. When deciding on a travel API, you can check our article with the major APIs on the travel market.
Of two options, API involves a more sophisticated integration but at the same time, it’s more adjustable. Prior to getting at it, answer yourself whether you do need an API for this specific product. Oftentimes it turns out that a white label solution will do for you. And with minimal tech resources (the company you take the white label from, does the work for you) you can quickly include a travel solution in your platform.
Yes, generally it’s better to become a travel agent, more expensive, but if you get returns they will be way higher than those of an affiliate. As an agent you’ll must be able to do all customer service (e.g. cancellation management), which isn’t the case for an affiliate.
You can start off with contacting wholesalers (or bed banks) if you plan on working with hotels. Check Hotelbeds, WebBeds, and there are a whole lot of other niche wholesalers. They provide access to content, availability, pricing, and booking capability. And it’s easier for newcomers to work with hotels rather than flights as usually you get higher commissions and can test your hypothesis and marketing strategy.
Then you can try flights using either the affiliate model or by working with flight consolidators. In fact, there are very few ways you can start selling flights and ticketing them without the IATA agent certification.
Yes, Travelpayouts looks like a nice option. Rome2Rio doesn’t have booking capability. It has search only.
If you’re fine with affiliate programs, also check Skyscanner, Allmyles, and KIWI. You may also consider Booking.com and Expedia affiliate programs, but they mostly address accommodation booking.
Amadeus has two API packages: Web Services and Travel Innovation Sandbox. The former is created for students or startups, as an exploration stage before the actual production. Amadeus Web Services also has two sets of APIs: Self-Service and Enterprise.
Self-Service is also a testing-only environment, but the production usage promises to be available soon. To try it out, review Amadeus’ catalog of REST/JSON APIs and then create an account in the Developers portal. In your personal profile, you will automatically get an API key that allows you to start testing APIs right away.
Enterprise APIs require requesting an access. The approval takes longer to receive, but you will get access to the full Amadeus API catalog. You can read about each API in the Enterprise stack here.
As for examples, see Aladdin Travel – a travel management company that uses Amadeus GDS to organize corporate and student travel. There’s also Titan Travel that specializes in escorted and solo tours. It switched to Amadeus exclusively after unsuccessfully trying to handle Galileo systems also.