This is how APIs are defining new horizons for the travel industry

Image: Moyan Brenn - Flickr
Ingrid Fadelli

The API economy is changing the way travel companies operate. Booking holidays has never been simpler

In a world, ever so connected, where applications and technology are an integral part of pretty much everyone’s life, APIs are becoming an increasingly popular way of simplifying software development and increasing its possibilities.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are code that allow communication between different software programs or applications. They help developers write software that integrates or requests services from other existing applications, without having to code these features from scratch.

APIs are currently being used in different ways within various industries, integrating tools that allow for simpler communication, file sharing, efficient customer service and much more.

The travel industry is a perfect example of the transformative changes that APIs are enabling, specifically in the ways in which businesses deliver their services to costumers.

APIs reach the travel space

APIs are introducing a broad range of new possibilities for the travel industry, helping businesses meet the needs of modern customers. Today’s travellers require efficient and personalized services that enable them to easily compare prices and available choices. They can then share these options with their colleagues, friends and family, and make bookings as quickly and as stress-free as possible.

To meet the demands of potential customers, travel businesses need to make sure that they present the right offers to the right traveller, and make the process of researching and booking as easy as possible.

New software tools such as APIs can help travel companies to further facilitate the process of looking for travel deals and booking them.

An really slick example of this is AirBnB, an accommodation website that was able to use APIs to its advantage, providing a practical service for anyone looking to rent a flat in a given location.

Larger travel companies such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Expedia are also using APIs to enhance customer experience and tailor travel solutions to specific travellers.

APIs can truly enhance travel services, by offering useful tools and features to be integrated into websites or apps, including maps, targeted offerings, direct flight-booking, customer service tools, and much more.

More informed travel choices

An example of a travel-oriented API provider is Travelport, a company providing technology solutions for travel businesses looking to improve their services.

In an interview with Skift, Mike Croucher, chief architect at Travelport, said: “Though still in its ‘teenage’ phase, the API economy is fuelling one of the most dynamic changes the travel industry has ever seen.”

Viva Online Services, a leader of online tourism services based in Greece, has recently started using one of Travelport’s API that customizes offerings presented to customers, providing greater detail of the different offers to help them make a faster and more informed choice.

Yannis Giovanos, senior product manager at Viva said: “We have seen over 30% upsell in the months following the implementation of Travelport’s Branded Fares and Ancillaries product which is well above our expectations. We have also experienced a significant number of customers choosing to upgrade to a business fare because they can see more easily what they get.”

Comparing prices

Another important aspect of booking travels in an era where such a vast amount of options are available, is comparing the prices of different services and selecting the most cost-effective one.

That’s why APIs allowing travel companies to introduce a feature that compares prices can come extremely handy, as it is common for modern travellers to explore all possible alternatives before booking.

By integrating a price-comparing feature, travel businesses will prevent customers from navigating away from their travel site to check for cheaper deals.

Skyscanner, website and app-based service (and recently-confirmed Unicorn) that allows users to compare flight prices of different airlines and book the most convenient solution, has now developed its own API.

Developers using the Skyscanner Flights Live Prices API can now integrate a feature accessing live pricing data related to air-travel. Similarly, the Skyscanner Flights Cache Prices API helps users attain quotes for the most convenient routes directly from Skyscanner’s cached prices.

What’s the weather like?

Another common reason why a customer might leave a travel website and navigate elsewhere, is to check out the weather forecast at his/her planned destination.

Now, new APIs are emerging which allow travel businesses to integrate weather predictions worldwide directly into their website or app.

One of these is SITA Weather, an API that generates data of current and future weather forecasts in different parts of the earth.

This is another simple and yet useful tool for travel agencies that wish to offer an exhaustive and efficient service to their customers.

The future of travel APIs

APIs are slowly transforming the travel industry, by increasing the variety of tools that travel businesses can integrate into their online services.

Croucher said: “The API economy is really starting to kick off in the travel space, with new technologies emerging from different players allowing for integration in ways that was never possible before.”

There are now APIs that provide detailed real time flight information, flight location services, International visa-application services, car rental services, hotel searches, and much more.

This is only the beginning for the API economy; and the possibilities that APIs could open up for travel businesses in future are still hard to imagine.

It is likely that the competition between different online travel services will be increasingly centered around how user-friendly and exhaustive their websites or apps are; and how well they are able to give travellers the information they need to make an informed choice in the less time possible.

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