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.
It’s almost impossible to give specific - read useful - advice, because of the many unknowns to clarify.
Let me provide some general assumptions though.
First, it doesn’t seem like you need to build a channel manager. A channel manager is a tool that hotels use to effectively manage their bookings. It connects to multiple OTAs and wholesalers. And as soon as a traveler confirms a booking at some OTA, a channel manager reserves a room at a hotel and updates other OTAs that this particular room is no longer available. This way, hotels don’t have to manually update each room status in all OTAs and other platforms that they distribute through.
According to your description, you're considering building a new booking portal. So, in this case, you would act as another channel for hotels that you want to distribute. And there are multiple scenarios.
1) The most straightforward approach is to connect with channel manager software that the hotels in question already use. This way, your customers will be able to book through your portal and a channel manager will update room status across other OTAs. Here are the most popular channel manager products. This doesn’t mean though that the hotels you’re interested in use these specific channel managers. Of course, they may have custom channel managers. You should ask hoteliers directly and then contact channel manager providers for their connectivity options.
2) Also, these hotels (or some of them) may not be using channel manager software at all and may manage their channels manually. This means that they use multiple room management panels provided by each OTA they work with. For instance, if someone books a room through Booking.com, they manually update the room availability in Expedia. Or they may be using Booking.com only and have no listings in Expedia.
If this is the case, you may develop a booking portal and a room management panel the way OTAs do. Then you’ll have to persuade hoteliers to use your panel on top of the existing ones.
3) If you know the specific OTAs your hotels use, you may look for affiliate programs that these OTAs suggest and sell using those. Check this one by Booking.com. Large OTAs usually have multiple connectivity options, including white labels, widgets, and APIs.
4) Another approach is to connect with bedbanks and wholesalers like Hotelbeds if they use those.
5) And finally, if you have a handful of hotels, you may try directly connecting with their internal property management systems. This is not the option if there are hundreds of hotels you want to work with and connecting to each of them would be difficult.
Basically, it all comes down to exactly how the hotels you want to work with distribute their rooms. Hopefully, this provides a jumping-off point to help you decide.
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.
EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange. Basically, it’s a network established between two physical computers that can exchange data using messages with a data transmission protocol. In the modern world, EDI systems can use internet connection and modern data exchange protocols like HTTP.
EDI systems are used to exchange different sorts of standardized documents between two computers. The documents are formed by the computer itself, so human involvement is minimized. Traditionally, document types generated by EDI are purchase orders, invoices, bills, or shipping statuses. Those are generated in a standardized form to avoid language barriers or other human factors making its possible for two agents understand each other. EDI is actively used in transportation and logistics for shipment document exchange.
I don’t think you can, because Dohop uses a Booking.com affiliate solution to run its accommodations. So, you should try Booking.com affiliate program instead.
Orbitz doesn't provide its own API. This OTA is a brand of Expedia Group. So, look for a connection with them.
If you’re an OTA, TMC, metasearch, or other travel provider, Expedia has its Rapid API. It lets you retrieve hotel data and booking rooms. To get access to Rapid, you first have to apply for a partnership with Expedia. If they approve you as a partner, you can start testing the API. Here’s their Expedia Partner Solutions page.
Before going live, you must make sure that you comply with their requirements.
If you're a hotel, use Expedia Connectivity to hook your property to all Expedia products. Check their API documentation. The API manages bookings and sends updates about your property, rates, availability, etc. To become their lodging partner, first, register your property by joining Expedia Partner Central.
Well, if we’re comparing a reservation system to an Excel spreadsheet or even a paper notebook, it has all the pros, and the costs pay off in the long run. Reservation will basically automate main booking operations like:
- Showing room status (booked/vacant)
- Collecting payments made online
- Managing inventory
- Sending confirmation emails, etc.
Besides, it’s not always fair to talk about reservation software as a separate unit - often, hotels would purchase this functionality within a property management system, so the whole hotel can be managed via a single platform.
The pros would be are those, usually addressed to software - sometimes, you will need the help of support, but they won’t be available, or the price may appear too high (though, often, it depends on the hotel size), or your staff would have to learn a new workflow, which always takes time. Also, in case of a power outage or if your Internet is slow, you may have problems checking in clients, but that’s manageable if you choose a provider who has offline access or simply use a backup solution.
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.
So, a few things to have in mind when choosing a channel manager:
Your desired reach, meaning the number of connections it has to distribute your rooms at. For example, the most popular CM Siteminder has 350 channels, and TravelClick (according to its website) will connect you to 400 OTAs. Not bad at all.
Next, what niche of channels does it connect to? Do you want to be listed on the biggest websites or specialty ones? Dig through their list of connections to make sure it works for you.
Also, of course, the price you’re willing to pay. CMs usually have you pay a service fee per month plus the percentage of revenue from each channel or fee per each booking. Usually, the monthly fee will be below $100, but it greatly depends on the number of rooms you have. TravelClick doesn’t have the pricing listed on the website, but if you contact them directly and describe your situation, they should give you that info. Don’t forget to compare it to the prices from other CMs, we have described the main competitors here.
We can’t give you a direct answer whether you should use TravelClick. Try as many channel managers as you can (thankfully, many have a trial period) and make an educated choice.
Klook doesn’t provide APIs for businesses (like OTAs) that distribute tours and attractions. Currently, they suggest a number of tools within their affiliate program. You can add Klook banners, deep links, and search boxes to your product.
If you’re interested in integrating Klook as a merchant and you want to distribute your T&A services on their platform, they suggest API integration on top of the web interface.
Currently, Moovit doesn’t provide a public API for their services. Instead, they suggest using their widget, links, and buttons. So, you should contact them directly to access the API.
And there’s another thing you can try. Since November, 2018, Movit is a partner of Microsoft’s Azure and their transit data is available through Azure Maps service. It supplies developers with a variety of APIs and a rich customization toolset. To start using Azure Maps, you must create an account, sign into the Azure portal, choose subscription, pricing options to start working with APIs. You may check their documentation first.
Still, working with Azure maybe more expensive than getting access to the API directly.
We don’t have direct experience with Skyscanner, so it’s hard to tell how exactly their vetting process works. But it’s true that they don’t reply to everyone and may expect some traffic before letting you use their products.
You may try working with GDSs that support small businesses with a handful of APIs. Amadeus, for instance, has flight APIs that are free for test environments, have a limited number of free calls, and fees once this threshold is exceeded.
The TripAdvisor Content API allows you to display detailed information about accommodations, restaurants, and attractions on your website. Integrating TripAdvisor Content API is fairly easy.
- Of course, first review the display requirements because it should be approved before the launch on your website.
- Submit an application form. Note, that access to the API is limited and it may take a while to receive a confirmation or rejection email.
- In the last section, you’ll have to describe how the API will be displayed, which is where you need to know the requirements from the step one.
First, this business model is viable. There are hundreds of online travel agencies that work with flights and hotels only.
But it’s actually hard to give absolutely accurate numbers. Why? The thing is, every online travel agency tries to get a competitive edge over others by finding the lowest rates possible to increase their margins. This can be done by negotiating rates with GDSs, suppliers, and consolidators/wholesalers. And, these negotiated deals aren’t usually disclosed.
Traditionally, commissions that large OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com receive range from 15-30 percent in the hotel industry. If you use the Booking.com API as a partner, expect an average commission of about 15 percent going to Booking.com with commissions differing based on the region.
Flights are more complex and commissions there are usually lower. But they will depend on the agreements that you negotiate with providers, GDSs in particular. Also, keep in mind that you won’t be able to issue tickets if you aren’t IATA-certified. This also comes at a cost that will depend on what kind of travel provider you are and the regions you operate in.
Also, a large part of online travel agency success revolves around the search and commission engine that you tweak on your side.
Finally, you have to invest heavily in marketing to jumpstart your traffic.
So, yeah it’s a viable business model if you do a lot of things right.
Hotelbeds doesn't publicly publish their rates. As their APItude service has multiple sets of APIs and various types data that you can request, the end pricing can be very different depending on your needs.
So, the best option would be to contact Hotelbeds directly and provide them with the list of services that you plan to use.
However, you can test the APIs in the sandbox mode prior to opting for some specific services.
Thank you for your feedback.
We assume you’re considering which database to integrate with: a metasearch or a GDS.
Let us know if we misunderstood your request.
Now to the point. The flow you describe is indeed common for metasearch engines aka aggregators like Skyscanner, Google Flights, or Kayak: they answer queries using formatted and ranked results from third-party search engines or directly from airline and OTA partners. Once travelers proceed with booking, a metasearch redirects them to the actual owner of the deal. And that’s how they make money - for every click on their link.
A metasearch engine’s business model is to provide the richest flight options that exactly match the traveler’s needs. They are able to reach more precise fare returns for a lower cost than GDS. They achieve that by aggregating data from millions of flights both past and present and comparing prices using strong search algorithms.
Some metasearch engines tap into New Distribution Capability to enable direct bookings through their websites. An example is Skyscanner’s direct booking platform. They can connect directly to the airline’s Central Reservation System via an NDC API to aggregate flight data.
As per your question, a metasearch engine pulls information from the APIs by flight data providers. Airlines and OTAs are usually the ones to initiate a connection with metasearch, as they want to broaden their customer base. Besides direct partners, aggregators integrate with:
Some airlines don’t provide direct access, though. Low-costers are the majority of them, as they strive for direct bookings. In this case, aggregators have the practice of mimicking human activity on airline websites aimed at extracting fare info. It’s called web scraping and it’s semi-legal so aggregators had better agree on that with an airline first.
For a full picture of airline distribution, check our infographic.
Speaking of the metasearch APIs capabilities, they don’t enable booking on your website. For this purpose, you’ll have to redirect users to either the aggregator itself or directly to the deal owner.
The most popular backoffice solution available for SABRE is TRAMS Back Office, which comes as a part of SABRE Red Workspace. Unfortunately, both solutions are desktop, meaning they have to be installed on each computer. As for the pricing, there is no publicly available information about the subscription price.
Sabre is one of three main global distribution systems (GDSs) on the market, along with Amadeus and Travelport. GDS is a database of travel data pulled from various service providers that connect travel agents with hotels, airlines, car rentals, cruises, and railways. What used to be a manual system with each reservation taking up to 3 hours is now a global network. Sabre was the first of such GDSs. Basically, you can’t make the reservation process automatic without connection to this system.
You can use just one GDS – Sabre, for example – or a combination of a few, but if you specialize in only cruises or railways, research which GDS gives you a better shot at covering all providers. As you can see from the image below, Amadeus is an undisputed leader in everything but hotels, and with Sabre you’ll receive an average number of companies, only if you don’t want to cover all the cruises.