NB: This is a viewpoint from Kaustubh Latkar, general manager for sales and business development at Tavisca.
Read original post at http://www.tnooz.com/2013/08/01/news/eight-tips-for-travel-agencies-when-choosing-a-travel-technology-platform/#LLvwxsHxLh7Het0l.99
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.
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.
Different features in travel technology platform that travel agencies should look for
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.
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.