Choosing the Right Technology Partner for your Online Travel Business
In our earlier posts, we have explained the changing trends in the travel industry, and the need for travel agents to develop a solid online presence, to complement their offline operations. Let’s say you have decided to invest in an online system to grow your business. The next step is choosing the right technology partner that will help you achieve your business goals.
There are a number of Travel Technology providers out there offering a range of products including Web portals, Online Reservation Systems, Hotel suppliers and GDS Integration, Agent Management system etc. The depth and breadth of the solutions on offer can leave you confused.
It begins with your requirements
To simplify your selection process, you first need to identify as to what is it that you are looking for in an online system. Do you need just a portal, without a booking engine? In that case you would need to show you products with indicative pricing. In addition if you have sub-agents then you would need to show them a separate pricing.
Or do you need a booking engine as well, to allow customers to book directly on your website. Now if you have sub-agents you would need a B2B access too along with separate pricing markups and commissions.
Now coming to the products you want to sell: Do you want to sell packages – or packages + Hotels + Flights or just hotel packages and vacation packages. Now hotel and vacation packages would be either from your own contracts or from online suppliers. If it is own contracts then you would need a CRS. Third party suppliers obviously have a larger choice. The best way would be to mix both.
Now if you are doing B2B than you may also want to look for a back-office and/or agent management system? All these modules generally have separate costs associated with them so you need to check your budget as well. Choosing the travel agency software vendor that is right for your business is not a straightforward task. You have to study their products, pricing, features, client testimonials, case studies, industry experience and sit through product demos for more information.
Experience and References
The choice of travel technology vendor can have a significant impact on the growth of your travel business, so make sure you check the expertise of potential technology partners and obtain references if possible. It’s vital you choose a vendor that has strong experience and expertise of your industry and understands your market well. They should be knowledgeable enough to become your trusted technology advisors, somebody whom you can reply upon to get expert advice on the market trends and how you can use technology to take your business forward.
Once you’ve shortlisted a few vendors you like, you should contact them for a guided demo. A demo is crucial, as it gives you a chance to see how the system works in much greater depth and detail compared to the free trial. A demo also lets you see how the back-office works, something you wouldn’t be able to see from a free trial. You also want to see how easy it is to use, if it can be customized according to your needs and if it will allow API Integration with the suppliers of your choice. When you see a demo, make sure you conduct a thorough assessment of the features and scope of the software so that you don’t have to go back to the vendor again to ask about what you will or won’t get when they buy the solution. It can be a complex process, but once you’ve pinned down the right vendor, it is very rewarding.
Partnering with the right travel technology company can bring significant growth to your business. It can open doors that otherwise would have remained shut. It is always recommended to go with an expert travel technology company, one which has strong domain experience and expertise, particularly in integrating multiple XML supplier APIs and GDS connections.
Some key factors to consider before choosing a technology partner:
- Total years of experience in implementing Travel Technology Solutions
- Number of Projects delivered(Particularly in your business areas)
- Suppliers and GDSs integrated
- Payment Gateways integrated
- Expertise and Knowledge about B2C, B2B and B2B2C Modules
- The CRS for packages, hotels, transfers and rental cars.
- Ease and speed of setting up
- Ease of integration with your existing system
- Flexibility of integration with other third-party systems(eg. Specialized CRM systems)
- Service and Support provision and track record
Travel Technology vendors generally offer their solutions in two forms: SaaS(Software-as-a-Service) and Licensed. A SaaS product is hosted on the vendor’s server and maintained by them, as opposed to a licensed model which is installed on your server and requires more manpower and costs significantly more in terms of installation, hosting and maintenance. Licensed solutions are suitable for large companies with big IT budgets and high level of technical expertise. If you’re a small or a mid-sized business, the high maintenance cost can greatly reduce your profit. Therefore, small and medium businesses are advised to go with vendors that offer cloud-based software.
The ideal travel technology partner delivers flexible, scalable and cost-effective solutions that help a travel business maximize their revenue through an effective front-end while driving down costs by automating and consolidating back-office tasks. The ideal technology partner should be able to deliver a quantifiable ROI.
Many travel business make the mistake of giving too much weightage to the cost of the solution, rather than its quality, flexibility, scalability and almost never the ROI.
Focus on the Returns, not the Price
Some vendors may offer you cheap software, which may be slow and buggy and ends up driving up costs and bogs down your business. Moreover, it may not be scalable and may fail to keep up with the growth of your business, forcing you to keep upgrading or go back to the brick-and-mortar model, thus defeating the whole purpose of investing in technology in the first place. Hence, it’s wiser to go with a vendor that is slightly more expensive than others but offers greater customization and scalability.
It’s also imperative that you check with the vendor as to how long it would take to set up the system. The time will vary depending on the modules you decide to go for, and also on the size of your business, but it’s important you ask the vendor to give you an approximate time frame so you can plan your operations accordingly. Otherwise this will only increase your payback period and have a negative impact on your bottom line.
You also need to check the pricing upfront and make sure there aren’t any hidden costs. You don’t want any surprises later on! So take your time to research and evaluate before you make a final decision.
In conclusion, choosing the right technology partner for your travel business should be done after careful consideration and research. You have to do a good amount of homework on products, pricing, experience, reputation, references, reviews etc. You need to do proper planning, contact vendors, ask questions, go through demos, check compatibility and flexibility and make sure the vendor understands your business and that their solutions match the demands of your business. It may seem like a daunting process to some, but if done prudently and methodically and keeping in mind the ROI, can pay rich dividends in the long run and give you a competitive edge.