One of the primary victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global travel and tourism industry is recovering rapidly. The global tourism market size grew by roughly 41% in 2022 over the previous year. In 2023, it is expected to rise to nearly USD 2.29 trillion, surpassing the pre-pandemic peak of 2019.
In this article, Onix team shares its experience building high-load booking websites like TravelBiD.
Here, you can learn how to start an online travel booking website, at the heart of which lies a booking engine.
An online travel booking system ensures the accessibility of real-time information to a company’s employees and customers. A traveler may book a hotel room or airplane ticket directly from the company’s website, OTA, aggregator site, on the phone, or in the company’s office. The data will be instantly updated in the booking engine and all distribution channels. This essentially eliminates the risk of overbooking and information loss.
A convenient travel online reservation system reduces a customer’s path to their purchase. Since more leads can simultaneously interact with the system than with a human agent, more reservations can be made, increasing sales. It also means a reduction of workload and errors. Smoother personalized customer experiences will drive repeat business.
An online hotel booking system for tourism businesses can bring together a tremendous variety of consumers and service providers and unlock rich revenue streams for tech entrepreneurs, such as fees, commissions, subscriptions, affiliate programs, app as a platform model, and ads.
Companies have several options for a ready-made booking system integration. The choice depends mainly on a website’s content management system and budget. For example, WordPress offers free and paid templates for hotel booking websites.
Read also: How to Make a Custom Wordpress Theme?
Those who want a unique product tailored to the specific needs of their company and customers may choose to build a travel booking website for business from the ground up.
An online travel booking system consists of three parts.
A database stores information about travel products or other resources to be scheduled, customers, bookings, customer communication, etc.
These web pages present information from the database to users and retrieve forms from them. Front-end web pages typically include:
… and business-specific details. For example, a hotel booking website features should enable visitors to find a hotel on the map, view a room’s details, read customer reviews, etc.
This software moves data between the database and the web pages. It processes users’ input, pulling information from the database as necessary and submitting new data back into that database.
Here are the basic steps entrepreneurs need to take to create a travel booking website:
To make a travel booking software for business, you need to assemble a development team. A skeleton team required for such software development projects should include:
You can assemble or hire this team before or after the research and planning stage. We recommend the first scenario because it offers valuable benefits.
Suppose you do not have qualified experts in-house, local specialists are too expensive to hire, or you plan only a pilot project of several weeks. In that case, it makes sense to outsource the job: your company can focus on the core business while saving time and money. A dedicated team that completed similar projects may provide the optimal solution.
Firstly, you need to decide on the type of a travel booking website you need:
Booking aggregators are the most common type of travel reservation apps. If you decide to create a hotel booking website, you will have to compete with the giants like Booking.com, Hotellook, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, and Trivago.
A brand online booking app is good when a service provider is big enough. However, direct bookings can also mean sales at higher rates for smaller businesses. A quality website increases brand awareness, creates new customer streams, and helps maintain customer loyalty.
A hybrid booking web app can aggregate offers from the top online booking services and offer travel products from your business(es) simultaneously. This will attract many users and earn additional income while increasing your brand awareness.
Another critical question involves the market. A family-owned hotel or local tour operator may start by targeting local audiences and, if successful, shift to the hybrid business model and expand their reach. Otherwise, it may be better to cover as many cities and countries as possible.
Your website can enable visitors to book a flight, hotel room, package holiday, cruise, sightseeing tour, etc., or provide the whole travel services cycle. Learn whether your target audience needs a one-stop solution, whether they will pay for booking local restaurants and events, rent cars, purchase gear, etc., on your website.
Develop your unique value proposition (UVP). Most travelers will be likely to look for the cheapest options first. It may be wise to specialize in deals on same-night bookings. If you want to concentrate on millennials and low-budget travelers, offer reservations at hostels and hotels for backpackers.
An affordable yet personalized travel experience is an excellent UVP. Airbnb became a leader thanks to its peer-to-peer business model, mass-market targeting, and global coverage. Misterb&b, which Onix-Systems helped develop and maintain, went further. The website and mobile application help gay people travel the world more safely. While booking gay-friendly accommodations, the users are also supporting LGBTQ non-profits.
Research your would-be competitors, evaluating each rival’s pros and cons. This research will help you select and prioritize the functionalities and features of your online travel booking app and plan the business model and monetization strategy for it.
Most travel booking websites use advertising, agency, or merchant models. As a booking software development company we have repeatedly helped create solutions for the monetization of such websites.
Booking apps can charge fees for placing banner ads about special offers, ongoing events, discounts, etc., or cost-per-click for redirecting users to partner airlines, hotel websites, and other service providers and OTAs. This model can be suitable for an aggregator or a new travel application.
The website is a middleman between travel service providers and consumers and takes a commission on every transaction. This model can be risky for a new booking application. It may be better to start with a lower commission, gain the trust of travel businesses and consumers, and only then consider charging up to 25% as a commission.
The company buys flights, hotel rooms, or other services in bulk at a wholesale rate and markets and sells them with a retail margin on its website and mobile travel app.
OTAs often combine the merchant and agency models for broader market coverage.
There are other possible ways to monetize your travel application. For example, a booking web app can enter affiliate programs with major search engines and OTAs by integrating their APIs (application programming interfaces). This expands their services and brings in additional income via commissions on the sales. A travel website may charge users a fixed fee for booking services and hotels or other travel service providers for some of the platform’s extra features.
Back-office software empowers owners or businesses to administer the websites, manage reservations, bills, and accounts, and control enterprise productivity, much like other companies’ enterprise resource planning systems. Back-office features must include at least:
The essential features of your online hotel booking front-office for your travel booking website should follow the user journey:
Arrange the essential features to help users book a service as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Search. The search parameters should start with:
Search for hotels nearby and GPS navigation are valuable features. Users may need to pick a location based on its proximity to the sights of interest they plan to visit.
Results page. When users see listings that match their initial parameters, filters and sorting can provide refinement, e.g., enabling users to see the cheapest options or the hotels with the highest user rating first.
Listing details. The following accommodation details are essential:
It’s also helpful to include:
If you offer extra services at the time of travel booking, you can increase both customer satisfaction and revenue.
Payment. A travel booking website should offer both the ability to pay at check-in and a fast and secure online payment option. Users should see the total amount and the payment by day. Multiple payment options (credit card, debit card, PayPal, etc.) will help ensure a good customer experience and reduce the number of abandoned transactions. A printable reservation confirmation should include all payment details.
Messaging. Instant messages can inform users about their reservation confirmation, changes in rates, exclusive deals, etc., remind them about scheduled activities, provide personalized tips and advice, etc., increasing user engagement and winning customer loyalty. Travel assistant chatbots can answer frequently asked questions 24/7 and guide users through search, looking for deals, booking, and an entire trip.
Push notifications. These keep customers informed about relevant services, discounts, and changes. This is why a progressive web application and eventually a mobile app should be considered.
Registration. Sign-up should be optional, but you may suggest it once a user makes a booking or returns. Users should be able to sign up via email or their Facebook or Google accounts.
User profile. This page should contain the customer’s information, booking history, ongoing reservations, and wish-lists, and allow users to change their language, currency, locale, time zone, and other settings. This data enables businesses to make personalized offers.
Customer feedback. Reviews and rating blocks improve a service’s credibility, and customer feedback enables you to enhance your web application and your business.
A reliable web design and travel booking website development company can help you with market and competitor research, selecting the necessary functionalities and technology stack, prototyping, and validating your ideas. For this reason, we recommend engaging experienced specialists from the onset.
The database development starts with creating a database diagram including several tables. The first should contain the resources to book, such as flights when you build a flight booking website. The second table should determine the dimension used to book the resources. Usually, it’s a calendar.
Complex scheduling, e.g., for a flight booking website to offer car rentals and hotels at the customers’ chosen destinations, requires pulling information from multiple tables.
Dummy information is necessary for testing the database system as your team builds it.
The deployment of the database, web pages, and middleware should be tested with various booking options. Booking databases usually begin with simple structures and gradually expand to deal with more complex needs. The database and middleware systems should be scalable to handle growing booking requirements.
User accounts may contain sensitive user data, and booking web apps can be vulnerable. Secure authentication and authorization, data safety, and session management should be addressed early. Specialists should scan the source code regularly to spot vulnerabilities.
Penetration tests help diagnose how secure the servers are and check network weaknesses. Specialists should use containerization and encrypt database and virtual private network (VPN) and transport layer security (TLS) connections.
The best practices of e-commerce UX/UI design generally apply to travel booking websites.
Vibrant imagery and vivid copy are a must but not enough to inspire visitors to book a trip. The user experience should enable them to accomplish their goal effortlessly.
Your travel booking application’s interfaces should be welcoming, intuitive, user-friendly, and well-adapted to phones, phablets, and tablets.
Also, remember that a booking website also communicates your brand’s story and values through color, shape, and other design elements. For example, Onix has a team of designers skilled at creating websites, mobile apps, and branding for tourism businesses.
The technology stack is a set of programming languages, software tools, a database, and the server necessary for travel booking website development. When hiring software developers, pay attention to specialists in the following technologies:
Libraries: Backbone.js, jQuery, React.js, and Zepto.js
Frameworks: Angular, Ember.js, and Vue
The software developers may have to integrate various XML/API/GDS depending on whether you build a flight booking website or a hotel aggregator.
Programming languages: PHP, TypeScript
You can estimate the cost of travel booking site development by multiplying the time required to deliver the features listed above by the man/hour cost.
However, these variables depend on multiple factors:
Here’s Onix’s rough estimate of a mid-range travel booking website.
The salaries of specialists building your travel booking service are the other major factor. The gap between fees charged by IT professionals worldwide often enables entrepreneurs to save half of their planned budget without compromising quality.
For instance, the same set of features built by the same number of specialists of like qualifications might cost $357K in the US and $200K in Ukraine.
However, choosing a dev team based solely on the lowest pricing or budget estimation would be a mistake. You need a partner that knows exactly how to create a travel booking website.
Searching and booking flights, lodgings, tours, etc., are the core of all travel websites and mobile applications. Tech entrepreneurs who decide to create a booking web app as a service can reap the benefits of an online marketplace.
All travelers expect that a travel booking web application should at least:
Regardless of the number of your ticket, tour, or hotel booking website features, both the back-office software and customer interface should be intuitive and user-friendly. The visual design should entice visitors to book trips and lodgings while inspiring confidence and trust.
As a hospitality software development company we have a deep experience in developing such solutions. If you need help with implementing your idea or wonder how to make a booking app for your unique business — please feel free to ask Onix!
The steps to building an online travel booking software are as follows:
1. Conduct market, consumer, and competitor research.
2. Figure out your monetization strategy.
3. Prioritize the travel booking platform features and formulate the software product requirements.
4. Design, build, and test your travel booking website.
To avoid problems and save time and money, we recommend contacting experienced travel and hospitality software developers as early as possible in the project.
The technologies and tools used in the development of solutions for different platforms will differ, but the steps to the software development process are the same.
You will need from 3 to 6 months to create a functioning version of a travel booking website.