As we’ve discussed in previous blog entries, travel agents, travel management companies, and other players in today’s global travel industry need fast, powerful technology platforms for maximum efficiency and productivity. Whether you’re talking about content mapping tools, travel ERP suites, long-term success in today’s travel industry depends largely on a company’s ability to leverage the right technology at the right time to reach and retain customers.
With networks and partnerships established in disparate regions across the globe, it can be difficult to coordinate sales efforts, particularly due to the need for integrated, multi-functional software solutions with common access points. Travel companies have a wide variety of these solutions to choose from, especially when it comes to selecting the right travel booking engines for a given company’s needs and desires. As such, these travel companies have to consider a number of different elements when selecting a technology partner based on specific criteria and desires.
But all this choice, while a positive thing for travel companies, begs the question: How do you choose the right software your travel business? How do you most effectively analyze your criteria and needs to ensure the software you select brings the greatest value to your business? And how can you tell which IT provider will be with you for the long haul and which will disappear after simply making the sale?
Choosing the right travel booking engine is perhaps one of the most crucial decisions a travel company makes in configuring its technology platform. Because so much rides on the finding the right booking engine, here are 5 elements companies should consider when selecting their travel booking engine.
1). Reliability. It can’t be understated, especially in today’s fast-paced travel industry: Reliability is a must. As such, travel companies must be aware of the reliability of the booking engine they’re looking to employ. Are there any players that have been using the system for a relevant amount of time? Do they have a successful business? Are they satisfied with the functionality, ease, and effectiveness of the software? Or, on the flip side, what concerns or qualms do they have about the software? What do they wish the software could accomplish that it currently can not? These are the questions companies must ask themselves and the booking engine supplier, especially in an industry where failures or breakdowns in technology can not only result in wasted time and resources, but also significant losses in terms of customers.
2). Error control. Even though reliability and precision are key drivers in selecting the right booking engine, errors happen. But if you have proper error control tools in the system, the damage can be minimized. Your system needs to be smart enough to handle those errors in such a way that your buyers do not feel the issue. Afterall, you are the seller, and for the frustrated buyer it does not matter that you are experiencing issues with your sources. What happens when an error occurs? How does this system respond? What functionalities are in place to correct these errors? The answers to these questions can go a long way in helping travel companies discern which booking engines will add the most value for their customers.
3). Simple interface. Let’s face it: Appearances matter and the look and feel of interface needs to be comfortable and easy for those within a travel company to use. The buttons should be where users would expect them to be. Functionality should be intuitive. The interface should be simple enough for those without significant software experience to master. Because a booking engine is such a large part of a travel company’s technology platform, multiple users across the entire value chain will need access to the engine at any given time. A clean, simple, easy-to-use interface will help reduce the possibility of bottlenecks with multiple users engaged at one time, but the ease of the interface will also allow those within a travel company to work more efficiently and respond with more agility to suppliers and customers.
4). Flexibility in content mapping. As we’ve discussed in previous entries, content mapping is a significant pain point in the travel industry. Every travel company reaches a point when it needs to work with multiple suppliers. When this happens, companies must have the proper mapping tools, and if the supplier can offer efficient mapping services, all the better. There are companies which focus on offering lots of destinations with good prices, but that in turn pay less attention to the quality of the content. Other companies pay a special degree of attention to the mapping process – especially the ones which are focusing on several destinations. In the second case, companies need the proper tools to differentiate and perform mapping per their extensive knowledge of the destinations. A high-quality, dynamic content platform (unique hotels, unique destinations) means investment in the system trust capital, and today’s customers are more likely to trust this kind of look.
5). Speed. In an age when travelers have a number of different avenues for researching and booking travel arrangements, speed is key for travel companies to maintain a competitive advantage. Resellers or travel agents need to optimize their time - the days when an agent had two hours to prepare an offer are long gone. Nowadays, if it takes more than five minutes to send an offer, the agent is not working as efficiently as possible. As such, travel companies need the ability to quickly and accurately search and source offerings, send emails, combine and distribute offers, and communicate with suppliers and customers. If, for example, a travel company can quickly and intuitively combine multiple hotels in an offer and send it to the customer together with the prices and availability, that company has a better chance of closing the deal. Remember: Success in today’s travel industry is all about speed and agility.