E-tourism : the evolution of the booking process automation
Tourism is one of the most dynamic sector within the web industry. Online dimension has indeed exercised a major influence for each tourism protagonist, all the more because the number of web sites is constantly increasing. Nevertheless, measures have to be taken before setting up a web site.
How to manage the back office of an e-tourism portal?
Methods of stock aggregation depend on the organization and the positioning of each protagonist. The most common processes are these ones:
* The CRS tool feeds the web site with offers
This method has been adopted by protagonists who produce and distribute their own products online. They can feed their website with offers directly from the tools that they use daily to produce and distribute their products offline in travel agencies.
Webservices will enable online booking. They will handle several issues: exportation of products from the CRS tool (products, fares, allotments…), calling customer files stored within the CRS tool, importation of customer files created online in the CRS tool, connection with CRS to check real time availability in the booking process.
Furthermore, the protagonist’s website is usually developed by a web agency and not by the software supplier (CRS). The customer will then manage the website with a CMS tool (Content Management System) that will enable to update the website, and to manage data that cannot be exported from the CRS tool: product descriptions and photos, creation of online customer profiles. The web agency usually manages fares and availability caches.
We have two data sources : CRS and website. Correlation tables have to be set in order to match data contained in each source such as products codes, customer files references, booking references… Connectivity is optimized, bookings are directly registered in the CRS tool without any manual input.
* Integrators feed the website with tour operators’ offers
This method is adopted by travel agencies that have a distribution activity. Integrators mean online platforms that aggregate offers from major tour operators. The most famous actors are Orchestra, Traveltainment, Resastar.
There are also IT actors that provide booking engines, such as Advences. Or others like B2f who are aimed at non-booking websites and who provide connectivity with different web sites and redirect the user to the provider’s website for the booking process. This is precisely the aim of travel search sites.
Dealing with integrators present advantages : real time availability access to the tour operator’s offers, possibility to compare different offers at the same time and on an unique screen, complementarity of online and offline distribution channels.
Furthermore, most of CRS tools adopted by travel agencies enable an automatic recovery of data flows coming from online booking platforms (integrators). This avoids manual booking inputs into the CRS tool : files are automatically created.
IT evolutions that encourage the automation of booking processes
MCTO messages (Message Comptable Tour Operator, meaning accounting tour operator message) based on the XFT language, automates the filling of sales contracts including information from the tour operators related to the offer. In a concrete way, when an online booking is confirmed (B2B or B2C channel), the MCTO message is integrated in the CRS tool and the travel agent instantly finds the sales contract pre-padded on their screen (within the CRS tool), as soon as the tour operator’s sale is confirmed.
This type of message enables the data flows transfers from the online booking platform to the CRS tool. This implies the automation of the booking process: the MCTO message is integrated in queues within the CRS tool, it then enables the creation of a booking file, including the matching or the creation of a customer file, and fills automatically the sales contract containing all information related to the sale. The travel agent only has to manage the sales process: billing, payment…
Perspectives: integrated mid-back office tools
We are more and more leading to the automation of booking processes. What is at stake for IT providers are integrated mid back office (MBO) solutions, leading to a new type of products consisting in a chain of tools integrating the whole business processes of the tourism industry protagonists.
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