Travel Agent
455 days ago
 

Eight tips for travel agencies when choosing a travel technology platform

NB: This is a viewpoint from Kaustubh Latkar, general manager for sales and business development at Tavisca.

Established travel agencies or startup ventures, irrespective of the type of their business, are challenged when it comes to quickly scaling up their online offerings to consumers or affiliates.

With the travel industry trends changing headlong, evolving an agency’s business model is becoming essential, yet challenging for many.

To remain at par with industry trends and at the same time to rationalise the ROI on technology investment, travel agencies are gradually opening up to the idea of migrating their business to Software as a Service (SaaS) based travel agency platforms.

Travel Agent

SaaS or hosted solutions have revolutionised the means of doing business around the world.

A simple website might help to establish a business initially, but to really enhance a local business into new markets, having the ability to do business online with consumers or partners is becoming very important.

SaaS platforms designed for the travel industry represent a novel paradigm and business model, where travel agencies do not have to purchase and maintain their own infrastructure, but instead, acquire the services from a third party provider.

The service provider offers the platform, maintains and updates the software as per the latest trends in the market.

Below are eight tips which you (travel agencies) should keep in mind while selecting the best travel automation platform that matches your business:

User friendly CMS

Your travel website is your storefront and a Content Management System (CMS) enables you to quickly change offerings on your website.

A CMS should be easy enough to help you manage the site in future. So choose a CMS with a simple admin interface.

You need to see that the particular CMS should allow you to perform the core functions like changing the look and feel/branding of the front office, creating, editing, deleting and organising pages as per requirement.

While evaluating a travel technology platform it is important to check if a CMS is included.

Robust affiliate and brand management system

The platform you are choosing should have robust affiliate and brand management system to onboard new brands and affiliate and should enable you to manage them in an effective and efficient way.

If you are in the wholesale travel distribution business, retaining and increasing your affiliate /sub agent network quickly defines the health of your business.

Scalable and flexible system

This is really important when it comes to travel business, no two agencies functions similarly. Every agency has its unique way of operating.

The third party platform you select should be customisable as per your requirements; it should be flexible enough to match your business rules and accommodate any changes your business model goes through.

And, most importantly, the people who manage the platform should know travel business, its trends and challenges thoroughly.

Inter trading inventory – both locally and globally

Look for this value addition when choosing a technology platform. The ability to store and sell your negotiated inventory to not just your customers but, if you choose, to other agencies across the globe as well, is an important capability.

Do not see a good season ahead of you? Open up your inventory to other travel agencies across the world as well as source negotiated inventory from other agencies across the world on the same platform.

Clean and intelligent content standardisation

Those who are associated with the travel industry must be aware of the challenges an online travel portal faces with changing data around hotels, airports, car rentals locations and cities.

Highly sophisticated automated content standardisation system which intelligently sorts data to provide you and your customer with accurate information do exist.

While choosing a provider, make sure to spend some time to understand how their system works and how accurately they can aggregate content from various sources.

The better and sophisticated the system is, the more it will protect your customer from possible disruptions and help you create goodwill in the market.

Scalable and complete CRM

This is one feature that decides your success as a travel agency. Choose a system that fits in with your CRM and lead management requirements.

This would help you save time and effort for all outbound marketing activities that you might pursue. Not just customers but internal user management is also an important aspect of a travel platform.

The platform should enable you to assign different authentication for internal (agents) and external (customers) users and keep information secured.

A platform that reduces manual data processing work

In a travel agency, the most mundane and stressful work goes on in the back office.

Be careful to pick up a system that addresses the needs of every internal customer and affiliates, by bringing relevant information to the fingertips of your customer service agents, fulfilment/ticketing agents, accounting staff, affiliates and business owners to enable  them take informed decisions.

Security

Choose a platform that is PCI PA DSS compliant, this ensures that online payment processing is secure and safe.

Choosing the right technology platform can mean difference between success and mediocrity.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Kaustubh Latkar, general manager for sales and business development at Tavisca.

NB 2: Image via Shutterstock.

 
 
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  1. Kaustubh

    Hi Marianna
    You couldn’t have put it better. Agencies often face challenges in evaluating technology based on how ‘relevant’ it is to their business. One thing that I frequently recommend to agencies is doing a simple feature versus ROI analysis while choosing a technology platform.

    The true power of cloud based SaaS technology lies in the ability to offer features based on ROI. This ability is often ignored while selecting technology and drives agencies to pursue expensive and often underutilized customization.

    Regards
    Kaustubh Latkar
    Tavisca.com

     
    • Marianna Koos

      Hi Kaustubh, yes… well said. The question is how do we deliver such important message to the community. I think there is an article in the works that perhaps requires a research to validate our assumptions and experiences. TN is a great channel to communicate these important aspects of the business for two main reasons among others: a) improve margins b) understand that technology enables innovation hence it is a necessity but also a commodity today and selecting the right one, utilizing it fully and measuring its ROI need to be emphasized. :-)

       
  2. Marianna Koos

    Hoops, sorry. I fully agree with you. I have found by working with TAs on a global scale that they all want the latest and newest technology (online/offline) but once installed ROI is not measured. Most focus on content offerings (content is King) but the benefits gained from offering relevant content often diminish by the cost of technology (e.g. mobile) selected. No wonder margins are low in the industry. Another thought is related to the optimal usage of a given technology. I have been in situations where the expensive, highly customized technology solved only a small portion of the problem as the technology itself was not fully utilized. Often this is due to management decisions that are not well-thought through and aim for the short term gains (savings) rather than creating differentiations. Yes you are right, this is a huge subject and so relevant yet not explored fully.

     
  3. Marianna Koos

    Hi Tim,

    Regarding your comment: “The third party platform you select should be customisable as per your requirements; it should be flexible enough to match your business rules and accommodate any changes your business model goes through.”

    I believe that the ROI on third party platforms is better if a TA considers a solution which fits 80% or more their unique needs but offered as a standard solution by the technology provider for several reasons. Mainly because a) on-going updates would cost less or even free versus a customized solution, b) updates are enhancing functionalities that otherwise would take time and extra costs to keep current, and c) development/implementation likely to be less complex and time-consuming. Although customization is the buzz word today, in my experience standard offers are producing higher ROI for a TA.

     
    • Tim Butterworth

      Hi Mariana – I concur wholly with you. I think the quote that you extracted was from the original article rather than my reply – but no worries at all …. it all contributes to the discussion.

      To be honest you open the door of a huge subject matter of how one should balance a unique business model and the degree to which software should be customised and made as bespoke software to support that model. I in fact favour the word ‘configurable’. In this way, the software itself is in fact ‘standard’ but it has a range of options that you to set the application up to work best with your business.

      In terms of cost of change etc. you are correct – the most costly way for an organisation to work is to develop their own application. At EECSoftware, we develop ‘industry platforms’ for travel. In this way, we will most often build in new functionality to the platform free of charge, but that new functionality goes into the overall single platform and is then made available to all customers. That is really the essence of cloud computing. It means that the product is evolving over time in line with the requirements drive by the industry itself, but it is being done in a way that is cost effective to the TA. It effectively becomes ‘community driven development’ – and that I think is the way of the future.

       
  4. TIm Butterworth

    A good summary Kaustubh and I am sure, a great start for those researching new systems. All the points that you identify are key – but the two I’d reinforce strongly:

    1. Focus on efficient data management – travel by it’s nature has to maintain a HUGE amount of data relating to product; this needs to be maintained – so it is critical that a system can do this but, to maximise efficiency within any business, it should be maintained only once in one place in one data store. That needs to then be accessible by web, mobile and back office, without the need for complex systems integration.

    2. Efficient administration/processing – paperwork as you indicate is at the heart of back office operations. Look for a system that reduces substantially the overhead of producing this.

    I’d add one more …. regulatory compliance and audit. Any system needs to put you in a position that you have full traceability and ease of proof of the version of a holiday as it was sold to the client, the full documentation that was issued and full financial traceability of where and how money has been paid for the holiday. Anti-money laundering compliance for example now seems to be an increasing concern.

    Feel free to take a look at our product Darwin, which hopefully covers many of the points that you have covered.

     
 
 

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