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Buyer's Guideby Taylor Short,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: January 12, 2018
Worldwide growth of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries has been so rapid, it's contribution to GDP has outpaced nearly every other industry for the past six years.
Travel is so big, it accounts for one in every 10 jobs in the world.
So, the competition for traveler business is stiff, and travel agencies (aside from giants like Expedia and Priceline) have a tough road ahead if they don't have technology to provide a modern and smooth booking experience for customers.
Travel agency software helps companies manage a wide range of travel products—flights, lodging and activities—to offer packages, quotes, itineraries, launch marketing initiatives, process payments and track the financial health of the organization.
This guide is designed for travel agencies to evaluate solutions and find the system that will drive more bookings and repeat business. We'll cover:
Reviewers' Choice Products
Our Reviewers’ Choice list shows the five highest user-rated software solutions for Travel Agencies when adjusted for total number of reviews and recency of reviews.
If a software solution has more reviews, and more recent reviews, we value those ratings more highly than a product with fewer, older reviews. This is because is it much harder to get 100 five-star reviews than it is to get 10.
We also know that software vendors continually tweak and update their product, so we believe that more recent reviews tend to be more accurate.
To determine which products made the final cut, we looked at how users rated each solution's:
- Overall performance,
- Ease of use, and
- Customer support
A solution can make the Reviewers' Choice top five in all three categories, or just one or two. All software solutions in the Reviewers' Choice have at least 10 reviews from real software users. The final products are listed in alphabetical order from left to right.
For more details on how we selected our Reviewers' Choice, read the full methodology.
Common Features of Travel Agency Software
Travel agencies have common business tasks and challenges, so the feature set for these systems are typically similar. Most software solutions include:
|Central reservation system (CRS)||
Like a hotel central reservation system, the CRS helps travel companies manage a wide range of product inventories, including flights, cars, buses, hotel rooms, activities, vacation packages and other travel services.
The CRS provides a connection to Global Distribution Systems, or networks of travel service providers, to view and access the inventory of vendors across the globe.
|Online booking engine||
An online booking engine gives travel planners a portal to reserve rooms, flights and activities directly from the travel agency website. These are usually customizable so the widget can be branded to blend in with the rest of the company's website.
This feature helps agencies manage various combinations of reservations customers may choose and offer accurate quotes on-the-fly. It also allows agents to present multiple options for similar packages based on pricing and inventory of the hotels, airlines or activity suppliers.
Users can save quotes for packages to compare later, and create documents with itineraries and pricing to send to customers via email.
Allow users to view and browse documents while online, but prevents saving or printing them
|Customer relationship management (CRM)||
A CRM in the travel industry helps companies track customer contact information, travel and purchase history, loyalty program participation and more.
A CRM also plays an important role in segmentation for hospitality organizations, which helps identify their most lucrative and frequent types of travelers to optimize marketing efforts.
Many systems offer tools to help market products in various ways: sharing marketing materials on social media channels, optimizing your site with search engine optimization tools and managing targeted email or SMS campaigns.
Agencies can use these features to advertise discounts and promotions.
Payments can be facilitated with an online payment processing feature, accepting all major credit cards and providing receipts and invoices.
Engage customers in their native language and accept payments with various currencies to create a smooth booking experience.
Manage your agency's financial health with accounts receivable and payable and track invoices for customers and suppliers.
Reporting features allow users to collect and generate reports about sales, inventory, financial data, customers and more to spot trends that need to be addressed.
Most systems offer templates for common report types to speed up creation.
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Travel agency systems can support both suppliers and agencies, each of which have specific needs:
- Suppliers can include several companies that offer actual travel products: flights, hotels, resorts, vehicles, bus services, tours or cruises, for example. Travel agency software gives these vendors access to a distribution channel of agents to quickly and seamlessly share pricing and inventory for more bookings.
- Agents use travel agency software to access supplier inventories and provide customers with a real-time selection of travel products. APIs (application programming interfaces) offer a connection to vendor websites so pricing is always up-to-date.
How Much Does Travel Agency Software Cost?
Like many other types of software, travel agency systems are usually offered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS), meaning it's accessible through a web browser. These typically involve fewer upfront costs than traditional on-premise deployments.
Many vendors don't list pricing online. Of those that do, the most common structure includes a flat price per month, and a certain number of bookings based on various plans.
Agencies with a high volume of plans can usually purchase an enterprise-level package with increased functionality and support services.
Market Trends to Understand
As the travel industry grows, new trends are emerging and changing the tourism landscape. As agents and suppliers, it's important to stay abreast of these shifts to remain competitive:
Chinese tourism continues to boom. China's expanding middle class helps explains the massive growth in outbound tourism—a recent Mastercard study predicts an average growth of nearly 9 percent each year through 2021. Lighter restrictions on visas and cheaper flights also contribute to this increased travel.
Software supporting multiple currencies and languages will be critical to serve these customers moving forward.
Sustainable travel and “voluntourism" becomes more popular. Sustainable travel involves practices that maintain tourism without damaging the natural and cultural aspects of destinations. Travelers are eager to experience diverse cultures, and do so in a responsible way. A related trend, “voluntourism", allows visitors to get hands-on with activities that help communities and environments during their stay.
By offering packages that include volunteer activities and/or sustainable practices, your agency can attract people who want to see the world and leave it a better place for future travelers.
Popular destinations: Iceland, Cuba, Detroit and more. Demand is still growing for two specific overseas destinations—Iceland and Cuba. These hot spots are gaining more direct flights from major U.S. cities, brand new hotels and AirBnB rentals to cater to increasing visitors.
On the domestic side, Detroit, Santa Fe and Minneapolis are popular cities for travelers due to growing cultural districts and bustling food scenes.
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