10 Ways an Automated Travel System Can Benefit a Tourism Business
Originally published at onix-systems.com.
Automation is profoundly affecting modern businesses. The changes range from the way they market products or communicate with customers to the manufacturing processes. Global tourism and travel industries are no exception.
Modern travelers expect streamlined, smooth, and personalized services. Forward-thinking companies are investing in machine learning, new human-machine interfaces, and other cutting-edge technology to improve their booking and guest experiences.
Simultaneously, software for travel agencies, hotel property management software, and other automated travel systems are saving companies time, money, and human resources. We previously listed the transformative effects of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems on businesses in general. This post breaks down the benefits of automation for travel agencies, hoteliers, and tour operators, based on Onix’ experience in building this kind of software.
Primary Gains of an Automated Travel System Implementation
1. Faster sales
Immediacy and urgency in sales are critical to a tourism business’ survival. A complete system for travel agencies and tour operators can automate and speed up many actions. These include reservation management, creation of tours and complex travel packages or groups, booking of travel products from third party suppliers and global distribution systems, and communication with suppliers. An ideal travel management system should cover the entire sales process, ensure a wide choice of inventory options, and provide the smoothest booking experience for employees.
Consumers usually send requests to several travel agencies, and they hate to wait. Sales automation features of travel ERP software help to respond to clients’ inquiries faster.
Imagine you’ve received an inquiry consisting of three items: accommodation, transfer, and a one-day tour. Having all the information about the inquiry and customer in one system, travel agents can start creating a quote immediately.
The software quickly searches for the necessary travel products in the company’s inventory or with international suppliers. The agents also need the ability to compare prices. Advanced supplier modules allow accessing various products from all service providers available at the moment on the product search interface instead of logging into each one’s system. Access to the latest special deals and packages instantly makes the offer more competitive. Moreover, the system can automatically email inquiries to suppliers so they can quickly confirm availability. Upon their confirmation, it would automatically send quotes and itineraries to the customers and confirmations to suppliers.
The software calculates all prices, discounts, and special offers automatically. Travel agents and tour operators can create a package, tour or group itinerary by combining components previously created in the travel system and automatically extracting photos and descriptions. Instead of creating a reservation from scratch, they can use templates for similar reservations. The system will then calculate the net prices based on component costs, add a margin, and produce the selling price.
If dates and services in the itinerary are changing, the time to create an offer and itinerary increases. However, with a travel ERP software, this task requires little effort from the agent. After they’ve inserted a service description once, the system will use that content to create the entire document automatically.
Invoicing is another area where manual workflows cause delays and inefficiencies. An automated travel system enables invoice generation and processing virtually without any human intervention. Once the customer confirms your booking, the software will automatically create and send the invoice and voucher to them.
2. More sales
If a travel agency, tour-operating, or another business takes inquiries only during working hours, it loses many potential clients. Automated communications can solve the problem, being able to reply to customers 24/7.
Faster quoting with appealing, fully customized travel itineraries in the customer’s language increases conversion rates. Specialized travel software facilitates simultaneous sending of multiple product offers and the creation of coupon codes, early booking discounts, special offers, and last minute offers.
With automated operations, the number of reservations that employees can manage may increase tenfold. Instead of reaching out to each potential customer separately, specialized software allows for automated email communication from within its interface. The entire interaction with clients and suppliers happens inside the system, becoming fast and error-free. An automated series of customized emails can increase the inquiry-to-booking conversion rate.
Travel ERP software enables online businesses to reach customers globally and accept payments in various currencies in several ways. They can upload and manage complex price lists, special promotions, additional services, and policies. Travel products can be sold through Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer online booking, call centers, branch offices, and partner websites. Modern systems make adding and managing these channels easier.
Social media integration broadens the market reach immensely. Integration of a website with Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel may help retarget visitors for additional bookings. Businesses can identify the best performing website traffic segments, create similar audiences, and run highly targeted marketing campaigns for them.
Automated travel systems help nurture customer relationships. They can automatically send travel info, collect customer feedback, and use state-of-the-art web marketing tools. The software helps conduct loyalty programs to stimulate more purchases. Businesses can add and remove products from the programs, define the value of points, count the points earned by travelers, and enable them to redeem those points on the next purchase.
Customer follow-up is typically time-consuming, but travel sales and marketing software does it automatically in the background. The sales team can set up a series of emails to be sent every few days until a customer replies. Automatic follow-up emails may potentially result in a 10–15% revenue increase.
Tailored upselling emails can further boost sales. For example, if someone booked a hotel in Paris, the company may automatically suggest local activities and events taking place during the stay. Product offers based on a customer’s purchase history will increase bookings as well.
3. Happier customers
Top-notch travel experience requires that the consumer should have greater freedom and control of their trips and expenses. Online and mobile booking, access to all travel products at the best prices, personalized offers, and other abilities powered by automation foster that freedom and control.
Specialized travel management software empowers companies to offer their customers high-quality services at the lowest possible prices worldwide. A Business-to-Supplier module may allow suppliers to manage products bought from them. They can update descriptions, photos, and price lists, and upload deals and packages, providing the most accurate and up-to-date information for new reservations. The system stores rich information about customers’ preferences which helps customize the offers. Since the company’s employees can access everything easier and faster than ever, they can focus on providing a better service to more customers and solve queries and problems more effectively.
Travel ERP systems may be integrated with multiple credit card payment providers and comply with the latest security standards. Sensitive billing data is often encrypted to protect customers’ payment details.
Upon receiving online or offline payments, the system will instantly send invoices and vouchers to the customers. A few days before the trip, it may send useful info about the relevant travel products and destinations. Travelers may also be synced with newsletter software to receive updates about any disruptions, news, or promotions.
The system may request customer reviews automatically as well, e.g., as soon as they check out of a hotel. The feedback will help improve the offers and services.
Automated travel systems also relieve the burden of corporate travel management. Corporate self-booking tools and loyalty programs will be appreciated by existing clients and will attract new ones. A corporate portal will enable them to find and book services, amend and cancel reservations, check purchase and payment histories, and download necessary documents. All expenses can be easily accessible and trackable through the booking tool and firms may access their travel spending reports from one location.
4. More productive employees
Travel ERP systems streamline every procedure, from bookings to yearly reports. Machines can carry out high-volume and repetitive tasks quicker and more accurately than humans. Searching, data collation, and analysis done by machines saves the employees’ time on the initial tasks and minimizes errors and inaccuracies.
Twenty minutes spent on processing an airline ticket may seem insignificant. However, multiply that by 5,000 sales, and the process takes over 1,600 hours, i.e. a month’s work by nine employees. Integration with Amadeus, Travelport Galileo, or other travel APIs allows travel agents to save time by booking flights directly from within the travel system’s interface.
In automated sales and operations workflows, lots of communication with customers and suppliers happens in the background, e.g., automatic inquiry emails, invoices, reminders, alerts, etc. This frees up human resources for more meaningful and creative tasks.
Cloud-based travel management software can be accessed anytime from anywhere, increasing employees’ mobility and flexibility.
Travel ERP solutions also take over the time-consuming creation of reports. They rapidly process large amounts of data and present information about key performance indicators in readable formats. The exact numbers of business intelligence further help improve productivity and efficiency. Employee performance reports compare the revenue generated by each employee and identify those who achieve the best margins. Management can use this data to reward and motivate employees.
5. Increased efficiency
Thanks to automated communications and sales operations, employees can handle more leads and bookings. This means companies can do more business with the same staff.
Automated travel systems facilitate the management of the ordering process, inventory, role assignments, and the creation of rooming, transfer, bus, and flight lists. It helps organize passenger departures and arrivals, improves efficiency, and reduces costs.
Travel software’s operations module replaces countless Excel files. Management has a clear centralized overview of all booked services and products and all assigned and unassigned reservations. They can quickly identify unconfirmed reservations, assign reservations to specific employees, notifying them instantly, and track their ongoing status. Availability reports help prevent overbooking situations or signal when additional inventory is needed.
Companies can also increase efficiency by automating accounting processes. Travel ERP software makes it easier to bill the customers, verify invoices sent by suppliers, and track all invoices and payments. For example, it may generate invoices both individually, for each customer listed on a reservation, and in batches, simultaneously for several reservations. It’s easy to enter payments and to see the amounts paid, due and overdue with each customer or reservation, as well as any bookings not billed yet. To accelerate payments, firms can send customers automatic reminders. Import of payments automatically linked to reservations from bank accounts will save time.
Integration of travel ERP software with Oracle ERP, QuickBooks, or other accounting systems saves time on retyping invoices and payments, removing manual work and reducing mistakes.
6. Money saving
This advantage has been mentioned several times, e.g., regarding automatic data collation, mining, and analysis, or supplier inquiry and confirmation process. Travel ERP provides accurate reports on almost any key performance metric, empowering management to cut costs across the enterprise. Any intelligent automation results in cost savings of 40–75%.
7. Centralized data and documentation
If your communication with customers and the information about inventory, reservations, and human resources are not centralized, issues can occur. At best, you may have difficulty finding something in your inbox or Excel and Word files in several local folders, or assigning the task to another person. At worst, you risk causing overbooking situations, failing to deliver the right service, or other costly mistakes.
Proper travel ERP software allows for smoother interaction with customers and suppliers within the system and keeps all sales documentation in one place. Businesses can synchronize communications from their email application with the system and browse through a centralized history of interactions. It speeds up the sales process and lowers the risk of error.
The software automatically tracks all relevant client information, empowering companies to create in-depth customer profiles. It’s especially important with corporate clients. When the data about their travel policies, service fees, and discounts is readily accessible to all involved persons, it positively impacts many workflows.
Companies can also maintain travel agent records and define commission rules in their ERP systems.
8. Reduction of errors and risks
If you are creating and sending invoices manually, an accidental mistake might cause trouble. If you invoice your customer incorrectly, you’ll have to resend the corrected invoice, apologize, resolve possible complications, or even lose the customer for good. Automatic invoice generation and processing decreases the possibility of errors.
Invoices submitted by service providers require verification as well. You can quickly enter them into the system which will collate the invoiced prices with contracted prices. You can also set due dates and automatic payment rules for supplier invoices. The feature will prevent overdue payments and improve your relationships with service providers.
The management of accounts payable helps to view total debt owed to suppliers and check outstanding balances with everyone. Reports of confirmed bookings that are still not invoiced provide a better overview of future liabilities.
Travel software may help mitigate the risks of adverse currency fluctuations. If such a fluctuation causes product purchase prices increase, the system will automatically calculate the difference and charge the customer for it a few days before the trip.
You can ensure a more reliable risk strategy for corporate travelers. If they have a credit limit to monitor, travel ERP software can integrate credit monitoring with billing, invoicing, and enforcing travel policies. Up-to-the-minute risk reports and GPS tracking systems also enable better communication between travel companies and their clients.
9. Smarter decisions and strategies
Travel ERP systems provide insightful reports on business performance and profitability. Accurate reports on sales, marketing, products, suppliers, customers, and employees help find critical spots, improve productivity, and drive enterprises in the right direction.
You can get a better insight into the profitability of complex travel products by linking the actual earnings with your associated costs. You can link each supplier invoice to a specific tour, group, or package to see the exact profit. Insights into revenue achieved for each supplier may help to renegotiate a better commission from them.
ERP software for travel businesses may also generate reports on
- corporate travel
- flight tickets
- coupon code
- reports by selling channel
and so on. Businesses can segment data to discover trends and identify customers’ spending patterns, best selling periods, most profitable demographics and destinations.
Detailed customer purchase history promotes the understanding of their behavior. Reports identify the most lucrative customers towards whom businesses should direct their marketing efforts.
Profit and loss reports give a better understanding of profitability for individual travel agents, departments, or branch offices.
10. Increased online presence
Some web marketing tools in travel ERP software help raise traffic numbers and value from website visitors. The software helps online travel businesses create user-friendly URLs and optimize descriptions and titles for better Google ranking.
Travel management involves a great many moving parts and parties. Specialized ERP systems give businesses and employees a holistic view and greater control of the entire process.
Travel agents, hoteliers, and tour operators can automate document generation, marketing efforts, communication with customers, invoicing, finances, reporting, and other processes. This automation not only reduces the expenses and time spent on day-to-day and periodic activities. It frees up employees to spend time on more useful tasks and focus on providing added value.
Automated travel systems let you efficiently manage the sales process and keep records of customers, suppliers, and travel agents. Automatically managed multiple sales channels increase sales. Early bid actions help stay competitive, and appealing itineraries win more sales. Powerful engines quote and invoice customers faster. Sales and marketing automation tools help resell, upsell, and cross-sell travel products. Such automation may result in up to a 30% hike in conversion rates. Improved services and augmented communication boost customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Workflow automation helps improve efficiency, saves money, unlocks a company’s hidden potential, and opens up new opportunities for growth.
In today’s ever-evolving cut-throat travel and tourism sectors, automation is an essential requirement for staying afloat. Depending on business requirements, a company may leverage either an off-the-shelf software or custom solution. In the latter case, don’t hesitate to contact Onix. Our specialists will eagerly answer any questions you may have.
A thousand thanks to Alex Belous, Onix’ CTO, for assistance in writing this series of posts!