How to Select the Right Travel Booking Engine –Roundup of all the Ifs’, Buts’ and the Maybes’

Did you know that more than 50% of travellers start the process of travel booking by using online search engines? This trend only shows that having an online travel booking engine is a huge business opportunity for travel businesses. So, finding a place for yourself on the web to help you in your e-commerce endeavours is a must these days to keep your travel business relevant in this competitive global market.

Selecting the right booking engine to meet your travel business needs is not easy as there are a number of ifs, buts and maybes that you should consider before zeroing on one provider or even deciding whether to outsource or develop in-house. Although there are many contributing factors which make the overall business presentable to the target audience however, the success of an online travel website is primarily dependent on the booking engine itself. And in the same context, below are some points worth considering while choosing an Internet Booking Engine product or provider.

  • Are you buying a product or a Service or a Solution? — Clarify your Expectations with the Partner and define the scope of work, Understand the providers deliverable as well:

It is difficult to define when it comes to travel business owner i.e. what should you expect other than a “good working technology solution” which can empower the online business with the same smoothness as the offline business.

Going one step deep, what is definition of “good working technology solution” and would it be same for all the variety of the Travel Business? So first and foremost point is “be clear” on what do you want and what are the expectations from the provider of the product/service/solution.

As a first step in the process of selecting the right booking engine, you should first clarify and define your expectations in relation to your booking engine needs. You should clearly state whether you are looking for a full-fledged ready-to-market product or an outsourced model where some portions of the IBE / application are custom developed on top of the base product available from the provider or a hybrid version where certain tasks are performed by your team members and service provider works as an extension of your team.

  • Select the Services Carefully:

If you are looking to start a travel website from scratch or are already an established name in the travel business, the first step towards selecting the right booking engine starts with aligning your web presence strategy with your core business offerings. Based on your experience, technical knowledge, and customer expectations, you would be more competent to decide on the services you want to add, and the relevant suppliers for the selected services.

Let us say, that majority of your customers are looking for flight booking services, then it makes sense if you integrate flights supplier content initially. In case, you are looking to add more services, then you should first make sure that you have developed the front-end and back-end support infrastructure and ecosystem at your end.

You can easily provide certain services initially and gradually scale up the services and suppliers feeding the portal over time to include all the travel related services. For example, industry stalwarts like Expedia or makemytrip (India) started offering a few select services before venturing into other markets.

  • Make the Distinction between Travel Website and Booking Engine:

Travel Website (what customers would see) and Booking Engine (what powers your e-commerce) are two separate entities that need separate treatment. Most customers do not make the distinction between travel website and booking engine. The booking engine is a small but most important part of the travel website. The success of a travel website rests equally on the success of the booking engine and other integral components put together.

As a customer, you should ensure that your partner has the technical know-how, experienced professionals who can align the booking engine’s capabilities with your expectations, such as functionalities and facilities you are looking to offer.

A booking engine can bring invaluable travel inventory from various suppliers on to your website, but to be able to convert each browser into a loyal customer, your website should include additional valuable information. Such as travel guide, weather reports, currency conversion tools, social media, feedback and review pages, maps and more. Although this is not a part of the booking engine, it enhances the value of the website.

  • Align your Customer Needs and Travel Inventory Sources Accordingly:

Most clients looking to develop a booking engine do not align the needs of their customers with the supplier inventory they integrate on their website. As a travel portal owner, you might get enquires from various customers with varying needs. You should be able to align the needs of each individual customer with the travel content you have.

Choosing the booking engine that can integrate the right suppliers who can fulfil your customer and business needs is the way forward.

  • What will you get as an output — Online Booking Engine or Web Portal Development:

There is a common misconception in the travel industry that a booking engine partner is solely responsible for developing the complete web portal as a product but it may or may not be the case depending on the offerings, business scope and the agreement. A booking engine provides you with a simple and easy to use framework that fetches the right inventory from the right suppliers, completes the booking transaction within a few clicks, such as searching, displaying and booking flight tickets, bus tickets, hotels, cars, and more. However, the work of embellishing your website with additional information that is interesting and valuable resides in other components as well.

A booking engine maybe independent of the look and feel of your website as it is only automating the process / booking services on the website. Understanding this and aligning the other components will go a long way in choosing the right booking engine for your needs.

  • Scrutinize the Demo — Map Requirements with Service — Spend Time and Don’t Assume:

Most of the clients are in a hurry to get an online booking engine developer, that they do not pay considerable attention to the developer demo. The demo has been designed and developed for a reason, and you should scrutinize the demo carefully, understand its features, its possibilities and limitations and map them with your needs and services.

Without a proper alignment between your needs and their service, you would probably end up with a confusing solution that is costly and irrelevant to your business needs.

  • Talk to your Short-Listed Travel Technology Partner’s Customers:

While you might be excited about getting the services of a booking engine developer, you should exert caution before jumping into a contract. Your best bet to stay safe is by talking to a few of the developers customers ahead of the contract. This way you will certainly get to know about their expertise, experience, the product, their team and the support they offer, their weaknesses, important missing tools, and techniques that might impact your business.

It is better to choose a provider who offers technical support and service, as you will want to make sure that your customers are always supported well both on the operational and technical front.

Finally, the success or failure of the Travel portal is closely knitted with a smooth online booking engine and depends largely on your understanding of your business and customer needs and aligning them with technology.

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