When managing or owning an online travel agency, among the most important aspects of obtaining consistent growth is to increase bookings. Even though improving booking numbers may seem difficult at first glance, it’s important to understand that many travelers prefer booking with an OTA when compared to booking directly with a hotel. While there are plenty of reasons why consumers prefer booking with OTAs, the top reasons include more affordable pricing, being able to book on an easy-to-use website, and being used to booking through an OTA.
Most online travel agencies are able to provide consumers with a website that’s functional, simple-to-use, and visually appealing, which makes it easy for them to satisfy their current customers. However, the OTA industry is a competitive one, which is why it’s necessary to look for any competitive advantage that can be gained. It’s possible for an OTA to move ahead of the competition by leveraging modern technologies to meet consumer demand and obtain more bookings. This guide takes a closer look at five of the top technologies that can be leveraged for higher booking numbers.
Advance Searching Filters
Likely the most modern introduction to online travel agency websites is the inclusion of advanced search filters with the use of such technologies as voice search and voice control. Keep in mind that more than 90% of all internet users access the internet via a mobile device.
With the integration of AI assistance and smart speakers, it’s possible for smartphone users to speak directly to the smartphone to perform a wide range of different actions. For instance, users can ask an AI assistant for the day’s weather or an update on local traffic. In recent years, certain online travel agencies have begun to implement voice search technology into their website, which allows customers to search for airline tickets or book a hotel room.
Whether your online travel agency was just created or has been in business for years, modern travel booking engines should be designed with voice search in mind. It’s important to understand that customers have recently been able to use voice control in other facets of their travel experience. Some hotel rooms are outfitted with voice-control systems that make it easy to change the room temperature or lighting with just a few spoken words.
Another highly effective technology that can help increase bookings involves chatbots. It’s possible for OTAs to leverage chatbots by solving customer queries. These chatbots are powered by artificial intelligence and are designed to serve the same role as customer service representatives. The issue with a standard customer service team is that limitations invariably occur with the number of customer queries that can be answered at a given time.
If every team member is tied up, customers may need to wait a long time to speak with or write to someone who can resolve their issue. Automated chatbots mitigate this issue by being available to customers 24/7. When staff members aren’t available, customer queries can be answered by chatbots.
Keep in mind, however, that chatbots are currently limited in the types of questions they can answer. Common questions with simple answers can be accommodated by chatbots. Despite these limitations, AI technology is improving on a continual basis, which means that AI chatbots will only become more advanced in the years to come. By keeping customers satisfied and answering their questions immediately, it’s less likely that customers will become frustrated during the booking process, which means that bookings should increase.
Price Comparison Engines
Online travel agencies can also improve bookings by leveraging price comparison engines to deliver the best price to each customer. Once customers know that they can go to a specific OTA for more affordable prices, they will invariably perform bookings on the website in question.
When using Sabre integration for the creation of a travel booking API, it’s possible to implement a price comparison engine on an online booking engine, which will display the pricing of that the OTA offers when compared to the competition. This is a simple method for showing customers that one option is more affordable than the alternatives.
Among the most frustrating aspects of booking a hotel for customers is the process of making the payment. The modern customer wants to complete their transactions as efficiently as possible. Once they’ve made their decision to book a hotel room, it’s important that customers can actually book the hotel in an instant. However, customers are currently required to enter an extensive amount of personal information and credit card details before the transaction is fully processed.
One technology that can alleviate this particular pain point is a flexible form of payment processing via mobile payments and card scanners. By scanning their credit card when booking online, customers can finish the booking process in less than one minute after making their decision to book a hotel. Keep in mind that customers routinely leave the checkout area while booking travel, which means that a delay in the process could cause customers to change their minds. Implementing a better form of payment processing should help increase first-time and return bookings.
GDS Integration for Inventory Management
The fifth and final technology to consider during travel portal development involves integrating GDS for better inventory management. GDS refers to a global distribution system, which is a type of computer network that that works as a distribution channel between travel service providers and travel agents. This system obtains inventory, fares, and schedules from hotels and other travel service providers. The OTA will then have the ability to search and book the inventory via connectivity APIs.
Having GDS integrated into an OTA will provide access to bookings, cancellations, and basic search systems. By implementing this technology into the OTA, it’s possible to conduct B2B and B2C transactions in an efficient and streamlined manner. GDS API integration will also allow inventory status to be updated in real time, which reduces the possibility of customer frustration. The best OTAs include GDS functionality, which means that customers may not perform bookings as frequently with an OTA that doesn’t include this functionality.
Modern technologies play a vital role in the travel business and can dictate whether a company lags behind the rest of the industry or takes its position ahead of the competition. Modern consumers yearn for reliability, convenience, and efficiency in everything they do, all of which can be improved with the right technologies.
According to Google Travel, nearly 75% of all travelers booked hotels, flights, and other travel services via online platforms. Most of these travelers are tech-savvy and know what they want from an online booking experience, which is why any OTA that wants to obtain consistent growth must accommodate these travelers.
Tyler Boykin is a Director of Sales at Chetu, Inc., a global, custom software development company, where he oversees the Hospitality & Travel, Transportation, Events & Meetings, and IT Service Management accounts, as well as a myriad of partner tools. A graduate of the University of West Georgia, Tyler joined Chetu in 2013 where has risen through the ranks of the sales department and helped the company grow into an award-winning organization.