By Harsha Subasinghe, co-founder of CodeGen
In the face of a technological revolution, it can be daunting for travel providers, big and small, to future-proof their business. After all, with over £123 billion ($150 billion) worth of guest interactions having taken place online across the globe in 2015 alone, the consequences of not finding the right system to juggle all your distribution platforms could be long-lasting.
Yet, with people’s booking behaviour evolving at such a fast rate, there’s never been a more important time for travel agencies, tour operators and accommodation providers to create or source the technology to help them streamline the process of tapping into this high-potential traveller network.
Since launching, CodeGen has been at the forefront of online distribution research, developing next-generation platforms that keep businesses ahead of the curve. With our focus on innovation and usability, we’ve identified four essential elements over the last 16 years that we believe are the cornerstone for online market success.
So, for any travel company looking to invest in a new technology solution to drive their business forward, these are the four fundamental features that our experience tells us must be factored in to prevent your systems becoming obsolete:
Make live searching easy
With so much focus on being able to rely on a reservation system to respond speedily to queries, real-time connectivity to products remains one of the key pain points for online travel agencies (OTAs).
With even some modern systems struggling to support the sheer volume of traffic that can be generated via OTAs such as Expedia and Priceline, it’s unsurprising that so many operators are forced to reluctantly revert to legacy distribution systems such as sending flat file extracts.
When developing our business management software TravelBox, one of our priorities was to give customers a fast and efficient reservations platform that can cope with any traffic volume. What we actually produced was a system that can easily handle more than 1,000 package searches per second – this equates to over 84 million searches in one day.
Choose API over web-scraping
Having a system with an in-built Application Programming Interface (API) gives the building blocks to ensure a system can exchange data speedily and efficiently behind the scenes with metasearch sites and OTAs.
Not only does this avoid a site slowing down as third parties scrape data but having API fully integrated into your e-commerce platform through solutions such as TravelBox is fast becoming a standard industry requirement when working with major airlines, hoteliers and leisure suppliers.
Reduce search results to maximise bookings
One of the risks of using the tools devised by the bigger online operators is the possibility of lower conversion rates.
What is important is that algorithms work on a quality over quantity basis, factoring in intelligent search functions such as the likelihood of the product results being booked and the user’s specific requirements.
As a result, the focused search results tend to be a lot more relevant and less overwhelming for the recipient which, in turn, encourages bookings.
Plan ahead and embrace AI
As customers grow increasingly reliant on their digital devices, their expectations on how companies should interact with them on them increases.
The rising popularity of virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana demonstrate the new way consumers interact with technology whilst the deeper artificial intelligence shown by Google Assistant in the new Allo chat app gives a good indication of the way travel is headed.
Allo already allows its agent to carry out a two-way conversation and, critically, apply the information it gathers along the way to future interactions. Which is why our research and development team have already created our own set of system agents to sit in front of the core reservations platform and interact directly behind the scenes, negotiating price based on a user’s booking history.
In short, gone are the days when having a reservation system that could simply take and manage bookings was enough. To survive in today’s fast-changing online space you need a platform that enables you to respond quickly and intelligently to the needs of the distribution systems – and, ultimately, your potential customers.