February 12, 2020

When millions of people book travel for work, leisure, and necessity every day, they do so through a travel booking engine. As a business, capturing some of this travel booking revenue can be lucrative even with the many players in the industry. The key to success is to provide the travel booking experience your niche audience wants.

This guide outlines everything a business who wants to offer travel needs to know about travel booking engines, including how to choose the right one for your business.

What is a Travel Booking Engine?

A travel booking engine is a platform where a user can make reservations for various travel services. Travelers interact with the interface of the engine to select and purchase. That interface is supported by technology that does a wide range of tasks.

How it Works

Booking engines all function in roughly the same way. They all…

  • Aggregate inventory
  • Share that inventory in a user interface
  • Facilitate the transaction necessary for a traveler to book travel.

The technology that facilitates these three functions can vary widely from website to website. This is because each site’s technology is (or should be) tailored around the way that business functions. Generally, each platform is designed to optimize performance based on the travel products offered and the special needs of the business running the site.

Travel Products

Travel booking engines can incorporate any combination of the following types of travel products:

  • Car Rentals
  • Airfare
  • Hotels
  • Other Accommodations (condo rentals, resort rentals, home-sharing)
  • Entertainment
  • Train Tickets
  • Cruises

Some travel booking platforms use a single booking engine for all types of inventory. More often travel platforms have separate engines for each type of travel.

Sourcing Travel Inventory

The first step in setting up a travel booking engine is deciding what travel to offer on your site. The second step is sourcing that travel inventory.

One way to source travel is to strike direct deals with each travel provider. This involves signing a contract with a travel supplier for inventory and then connecting to that supplier to access the inventory.

However, direct deals are expensive and take a long time. This is because there are thousands of travel providers in the market. It’s also because hotels, car rental companies, tour operators, and airlines each have their own ways of sharing their products with travel websites.

Since direct sourcing is a monstrous task, middlemen have found a place in the distribution chain. These middlemen, or travel distributors, simplifying the process for their clients.

For instance, travel aggregators make it their business to have lots of direct deals that they can share with their clients. Other middlemen such as the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) facilitate inventory supply chains through technology platforms but do not provide inventory themselves.

The supply chain of travel distribution can get even more complex. For example, some travel aggregators source travel from other aggregators. Some use the GDS as well.

Businesses that are new to travel should start by working with one or two travel suppliers. The key is to find the suppliers that offer the right travel products on the shortest supply chain.

Travel Booking Engine Features

In addition to connecting to suppliers, a good travel booking engine needs other certain features.

For instance, the engine needs a user-friendly interface. It also needs robust reporting to inform business decisions.

Because of differentiation, most businesses have their own additional set of unique needs. These needs are tied to the functions involved in running a travel booking business. For example, some businesses need features that support an end-user call center to provide assistance to travelers. Some businesses don’t need this functionality built into their travel booking solution.

Including features that support business functions in the travel booking solution can create efficiencies. The feature set needed by a particular aspiring travel business should be considered when evaluating a potential travel booking solution.

Procuring the Right Solution

Businesses have many options for standing up their platform. They could build it themselves if they have competent developers. Just like sourcing inventory, though, this can get expensive. It takes a lot of time and a good travel booking engine is extremely complex. Fortunately, there are faster, cheaper options.

White-Label Solutions

White-label or private-label travel booking solutions are attractive. They provide a complete technology platform out of the box. Aspiring travel businesses brand the solution as their own. Then they can populate it with the inventory they sourced.

Learn more about the benefits of a white-label travel booking engine.

Full-Service Solutions

The full-service platform takes the white-label concept a step further. A full-service solution not only provides the technology but also the services and manpower needed to run a travel booking business. Great full-service solutions even provide inventory. Full-service solutions are ideal for businesses in non-travel industries that are looking to add an additional product to their offering.

Learn more about what’s possible in a full-service travel booking solution.

Get Started

Alliance Reservations Network offers a flexible full-service platform. It molds around the needs of each client down to minute business details. It includes the best rates in the industry on travel inventory for hotels, car rentals, airfare, and activities. Plus, it comes with several business services that optimize a client’s travel business in their desired direction.

Alliance’s platform can also be used as a white-label solution for businesses that don’t need the added services. It’s an extremely flexible platform, and it can be implemented for a new client quickly.

Learn more about Alliance’s travel booking platform or fill out the form below.