About two years ago, we took a bet that online travel agents (OTAs) and marketplaces would play a much more important role in driving bookings for tour and activity companies. Since then we strategically integrated with thirteen different marketplaces to offer the most comprehensive Channel Manager tool for growth focused tour and activity operators.
And our efforts paid off.
Between May 2017 and May 2018, bookings via online marketplaces grew from 5% to more than 20% and we’re certain that this only the beginning. Part of this growth comes from changing consumer behaviour, where more and more travellers prefer to spend more money on in-destination activities rather than on travel amenities. Part of this growth is attributed to the growth of supply available on these marketplaces that naturally takes place over time. Part of this growth can also be attributed to the sophistication OTAs apply to their marketing efforts, both online and offline.
The tricky business relationships with OTAs
While the added marketing value that marketplaces provide operators is huge, backend management of bookings from these marketplaces hasn’t been the easiest for suppliers. On top of that, there’s the threat of tours and activities falling into the same trap as the hotel industry where OTAs become too dominant and powerful in the market and suppliers end up beholden to them.
At TrekkSoft, we truly believe that one way to combat this is for suppliers to continue to build their online presence and generate as many bookings as they can directly from their own websites. Another to combat this is for OTAs to remain competitive in the market. That’s why we’re focused on developing a booking system that’s independent and focused on connecting suppliers directly to consumers via their own websites, and via small and large 3rd party distributors.
Establishing industry standards to push the sector forward
This month, thanks to the dedication from the development teams at Civitatis, Tiqets, CityBreak and Get Local, we’re excited to announce that our backend integrations are live.
- Civitatis is the world’s leading marketplace for Spanish speaking trips.
- Tiqets offers an innovative ticketing platform that simplifies how people purchase and use tickets for attractions, museums, shows and activities through its mobile app.
- CityBreak is a 3rd party distributor with a strong presence in Scandinavia.
- Get Local is the world’s first digital all-in-one concierge solution for hotels.
But what kept us busier was our efforts to create and implement backend integration standards with new and existing partners, that would ultimately benefit suppliers who manage bookings from multiple channels on a daily basis.
In practical terms, these are some of the integration requirements we believe will improve the user experience of operators and suppliers:
- Bookings should be clearly labelled according to the channel they were sold on to allow quick and seamless analysis of marketplace performance.
- Bookings from 3rd party marketplaces should include a reference ID so that suppliers can easily search for the same booking on an OTA’s extranet.
- The first name, last name and email addresses of customers should be included in all bookings.
- Guest information is automatically added to TrekkSoft’s guest manifests to allow suppliers to easily validate their tickets and keep track of attendance.
- Uniformity across marketplace and TrekkSoft’s price categories (e.g. price per seat, per group, per unit).
- QR codes should be supported by OTA’s systems so that suppliers can use TrekkSoft’s mobile app to validate tickets.
The above standards have become prerequisites for any future marketplace interested in integrating with TrekkSoft. On top of that, we are also working on existing integrations to provide more uniformity for suppliers to make it easier for them to connect to marketplaces and reduce friction involved in managing bookings from different sources.
We’re really excited for these integrations to be live and can’t wait to release the four upcoming integrations in the next few months. (Stay tuned for more information!)
Accessible connections for all suppliers, large and small
With all that said and done, we also believe that these backend integrations should be more accessible to suppliers small and large. Therefore, we’ve also created new subscription models that include the Channel Manager from the lowest plan onwards, giving suppliers access to over fifteen marketplaces from as low as €50 a month.
A fragmented market and disconnected suppliers have always been a complex problem in the tours and activities sector. We believe that this move on our part will further push the sector forward. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.
This post was written by Lukasz Porebski, TrekkSoft’s Head of Product. It was edited and published by Nicole Kow.