Travel industry services are catering to the thousands of millennial and Gen Z travelers who are booking big trips by augmenting their platforms with online and mobile support. Travel platforms are enabling more online bookings than ever, and 83 percent of U.S. adults want to book their trips online, according to recent reports, meaning physical travel offices handle smaller shares each year.
Competition among airlines, hotels and travel agencies is fiercer, but all these platforms are approaching travel innovation in similar ways. Today’s heavy hitters are the same companies that dominated when bookings were handled through phone calls and human employees. The booking process has not changed much, though, said Eran Shust, co-founder and CEO of online travel platform Splitty, in a recent interview with PYMNTS. Convenience and price are still the two most important factors when travelers make arrangements.
This stagnation extends to the booking process, in which hotels’ packages and deals have mostly stayed the same. Relying on old standbys for booking means consumers can rapidly become bored with hotels or airlines that do not cater to their personal needs. Revitalizing the booking process would benefit merchants and consumers, but the travel platforms that work with merchants are ultimately responsible for creating those benefits.
Merchants Need To Rethink Booking
The core problem with traditional booking is it prevents hotels and other services that offer deals better suited to travelers’ needs from being presented as options. Consumers tend to search by price and fill in the rest of their needs along the way, and they can grow frustrated when they are forced to overpay for features they might not want.
The key to making this experience more tolerable — and lucrative — is flexibility, Shust said. “[Splitty] essentially looks at [hotel inventory] in a fundamentally different way,” he explained.
Splitty allows consumers to divide their reservations among multiple deals or services, meaning they only pay for what they want. They can come to the site and book five nights in New York City, for example, and those stays could include parking services for just the first two nights, Shust said. The remaining nights will lack such perks, but consumers will not have to pay for them.
Merchants participating on the platform are, thus, able to make better use of their inventory, filling up hotel rooms or airline seats with more satisfied customers. Splitty stated that it increases the market availability of hotels on its platform by up to 15 percent, enabling hotels to reach wider traveler bases.
“We are trying to create new kinds of deals or products for these properties,” Shust said. “By just trying to understand the different parts of [their] inventories, we can … give [them] more traffic, and get something better for [their] customers. Eventually, we want to make sure that [these properties] increase [their] occupancy levels and revenue per available room.”
Splitty has more than 500,000 properties listed on its site, and has taken great measures to ensure that merchants can seamlessly onboard with application programming interfaces (APIs). This affords customers more options when choosing their next destination, and helps hotels connect with travelers.
“It is actually pretty easy [for hotels to] onboard their inventories because we are acting like any other travel agency in terms of how [they] are working with us,” he said. “But it is our technology that creates all those sophisticated rates. So, for the hotels, it does not take anything special in order to benefit from our inventory and from our offering. They just integrate, … and our system takes care of everything by creating those deals.”
The company needs to ensure that both its customers and partner travel services are legitimate, so its onboarding process has security measures to properly authenticate merchants before they are listed on the site. This blocks illegitimate listings from the platform, and protects consumers from enterprising fraudsters.
Security Remains Innovation’s Watchword
Merchants and consumers still place trust in the traditional booking process, Shust said, and maintaining that trust is critical as Splitty builds out its method of connecting travel companies and tourists. The firm has created careful authentication standards for properties and users, ensuring that the latter can safely and securely pay with their method of choice, for example. This helps both merchants and travelers trust Splitty — a factor that is increasingly important as illegitimate travel sites take advantage of inexperienced travelers, and as more schemes pop up online.
“I think enabling the big payment providers — like major credit cards and PayPal, and other kinds of payment options — also gives us the trust that these payment processes [have], and [these providers] can help us determine if [these are] legitimate customers,” Shust said. “If not, we have certain procedures that can take care of that.”
Strong security inside its revamped booking process will prove essential to Splitty, one of many aggregation platforms attempting to stand out. It is clear that industry players need to satisfy both parties, though, especially as consumers tire of traditional travel experiences, and as greater digital connectivity leads to increased fraud.