Various travel websites are galore. Any tourist destination worth attention has one or more devoted to it and is also featured by a bunch of other sites. In order to succeed with a Web-based travel startup, you must, often, be able to uncover a facet of your tourist sight, attraction, or destination previously unseen, or offer a service, previously unavailable. Both scenarios may prove to be tough to pull off.
Moreover, while it is, certainly, essential to have a viable underlying idea, travel is one of the business niches where an even brilliant startup idea can easily get hobbled by a technical embodiment that stunts growth and strips you of the ability to adjust to the evolving needs of your market.
How can you hedge the risks, raise the odds, and, ultimately, develop a well-performing and profitable travel website?
There are two sets of recommendations we would like to share with you. They can be divided into two categories: technical and non-technical ones.
Non-Technical, or Concept-Related Recommendations
- Identify the Kind of Travel Website You Want and Actually Need
First of all, it must be clearly understood that the types of travel websites are many (a travel portal, a travel agency website, a travel booking website, a car rental website associated with a specific tourist location and more). They vary quite a bit in purpose and the ways in which your travel website development efforts can be monetized.
Regardless of whether it’s about bird watching in South-African veldt or partaking of outlandish cuisines somewhere in Asia, the travel website type you choose must be in line with the idea and purpose of your startup. Even if things seem to be absolutely clear at first glance, double-check by looking at the monetization avenues that seem to be appropriate in this case. This may prompt you to broaden your scope and opt for a crossbreed of two or, even, more travel website types.
For example, if it is your intention to launch a big-time birding tour to a middle of nowhere that is rife in bird life, you may want to partner with a car rentals business and include a car rentals-booking capability.
- Check Your Monetization Opportunities: Are You Sure This Kind of Travel Website Will Allow You to Profit?
No matter the focus of your site, is a travel website is unlikely to be something you can turn too much profit on through advertising. In fact, frequently, quite the opposite, even in those instances when it deals with relevant product offerings. What does this mean?
Well, first of all, this means that on no account should you start your travel website development if the monetization scheme you have in mind seems too modest and fuzzy against the backdrop of the picturesque contents and accompanying frills you are planning to create. This would be a costly mistake that has been made by many.
Once inspired by the splendid look of your website to visit the site or destination it promotes, your visitor will, most probably, wander off in search of a more action-packed scenario.
- Identify the Size of Your Target Niche: Is It Big Enough to Profit?
Already during the ideation stage, you must take stock of your market. It is essential that you determine whether it is, actually, possible to make your travel website tailored to a narrow market niche and, simultaneously, sufficiently profitable. Frequently, it is not. In the latter case, you should think about how to expand your offering either horizontally (look at the neighboring geographies), or vertically (look at audiences with adjacent or overlapping interests).
Technical and Implementation-Related Recommendations
- Provide the Ability to Track Your Reservations through Their Duration and Comprehensively
The Reservation functionality of your travel portal system must support tracking customer reservations in their entirety.
This means that you must be able to track all meaningful events, associated with a reservation, throughout its duration and for any of the existing entry points and sales channels. You must also be able to attach, retrieve from an external source or manage otherwise any documents that are related to such events and need to be attached.
- Take Into Account All Possible Sales Channels
It is imperative that prior to the development stage, you think of all the possible sales channels you may want to use and list those in the technical specification that covers your travel website development effort. These channels can include travel agencies, individual travel agents, and various third-party partnerships. Each of the channels you’ve chosen to support must be reflected in the functionality of your travel portal solution, including the attribution of commissions and granting of discounts.
- Make Sure Your Travel Website Uses Technologies That Complement Its Purpose
Travel is a technology- and look and feel-sensitive business niche. There are several sibling Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies that are, currently, gaining ground on a massive scale. They are directly impacting travel portal development in two areas: the look and feel of travel websites and the approach to the creation of customer experiences these sites deliver. According to Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), in 2017, 8 of the world’s largest hotels have looked into implementing some kind of a VR technology, while the social mentions of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality technology in relation to the Travel vertical have increased by some 13%.
While AR/VR is likely to shortly become a must-have for, at least, major travel websites to stay up to par, there are two more AI game-changers currently making inroads into the Travel industry. They are Data Science (here, it deals, mostly, with the Big Data-driven approach to customer experiences and client-facing interactions) and chatbots. The latter allows you to provide 24/7 on-demand service, while also affording you a host of other advantages, such as, for example, the ability to provide multilingual sales support and help you with the acquisition of new, foreign-speaking markets.
One more thing: AI can also help you with yet another important vehicle for travel promotion, – Customer Reviews. With the help of the AI technologies of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning, you can glean relevant customer reviews from across the Web and display them to your visitors in response to relevant queries.
- Embed the Ability to Prevent Overbooking
In the case of travel booking websites, in addition, being able to provide comprehensive management and tracking of your resources, the Inventory functionality of your system must be able to signal the overbooking of an asset. This is especially important if you work with travel agencies or agents.
- Use Free External Resources to Scale Up
While you may be starting small, there are free means of expanding the range of capabilities your travel management system provides. For example, by using one of the several free APIs, available for this purpose, you can add an apartment rental or ticket search capability and, thus, significantly enhance your application. If you decide to use this opportunity, this should better be planned and taken care of beforehand, prior to the beginning of the implementation process.
There are also several more things that may seem to be obvious but are frequently overlooked by those who are planning to build a travel management solution. Use the following checklist to make sure they have been taken care of:
1. Add an analytical app (for example, Google Analytics or Piwik) to be able to analyze your audience and it’s behavior.
2. Use Responsive Design from the outset to be able to create a good mobile version of your solution.
3. From the very beginning, make your website as multilingual as possible, but make sure you have the ability to support all the language versions you want to add over the long haul.
Cost of Development
It is pretty hard to size up the development expenses you can incur, for, as we have mentioned, travel apps vary widely. The cost of the development, can, correspondingly range from around $ 10 000 for a simple app with basic functionality, to $ 200 000 -250 000 for one with broad functionality and a full array of bells and whistles
However, given the right choice of the provider, you should be able to secure a well-performing travel app that supports working with all the parties normally involved in the business for $ 20000-25000. In this sense, opting for an offshore location, such as, for instance, one in Eastern Europe, can help a great deal.
© 2017, Vilmate LLC
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