back icon Back Insights 12/26/2023

Travel Booking Software Platforms: Choosing the Right Solution for Your Needs

Navigating an array of travel booking software platforms can be daunting. Not only does each promise the pinnacle of convenience and functionality, but the sheer number of acronyms and industry terms sprinkled throughout the selection process can make you feel like you need a glossary. After all, what’s the difference between CTM and TMC, and what do they even have to do with booking?

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to learn how to select the correct travel booking software platform easily. 

In this comprehensive guide for businesses seeking to navigate the complexities of selecting the right travel booking software platform, the team at arrivia will explore the essential features, compatibility requirements, and cost considerations of various solutions, ensuring you land on a software platform perfectly tailored to your business travel management needs. Let’s get started! 

Understanding Travel Booking Software Platforms

Navigating travel booking solutions will have you wondering how travel agents make bookings. What software does a travel agent use, anyway? The answer boils down to travel booking software platforms, specialized solutions designed to simplify the reservation process. They encompasses tools for searching flights, hotels, car rentals, and other travel services, like activity booking.

Travel booking software platforms offer users real-time availability and pricing, secure payment gateways, and easy-to-use booking management capabilities. General solutions offer broader functionality suitable for various types of travel-related companies, as well as software that caters to niche markets within the travel industry, such as air travel, providing bespoke features. 

Considerations for Choosing a Travel Booking Software Platform

The first step toward choosing the right travel booking software platform for your business is solidifying your company’s travel needs. Start by auditing your current travel activities to identify patterns that pinpoint the software functionality your business requires, such as multi-city trip planning or group booking capabilities. Begin by asking targeted travel questions, such as:

  • How many trips does your company book annually? 
  • Do your employees travel domestically or internationally, or both? 
  • What are the standard routes and destinations? 
  • Do you require frequent last-minute bookings or same-day travel? 

Next, evaluate your budget. Compare your overall travel spend and the desired percentage of savings to determine what your company can reasonably afford. Consider direct costs, like subscription fees and transaction charges, and indirect costs, such as implementation and training. Remember, the cheapest option isn’t the most cost-effective if it fails to meet all your needs. 

From here, examine each software solution’s available features. A comprehensive feature set is crucial to the longevity and effectiveness of a solution. Do you need real-time booking capabilities, integrated expense management, or automated policy compliance features? Look for customizable options that align with your travel policies, approval hierarchies, and user-preferred vendors. 

Lastly, confirm the software’s integration compatibility. Your chosen software should easily integrate with your existing systems—such as HR software for employee profiles, ERP systems for financial tracking, and CRM systems for client-related travel. Simplified integration streamlines internal processes and maintains critical data consistency (and security) across all platforms.

Understanding Different Types of Travel Booking Software Platforms

Travel providers and corporate travel programs deploy one, if not multiple, of these types of travel booking software platforms. 

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Online travel agencies (OTAs), like Expedia Group and Booking.com, are go-to consumer-facing travel booking engines ideal for straightforward travel needs. OTAs offer extensive inventories for flights, hotels, and car rentals and often pass along the good deals they’ve negotiated with tour operators and other travel service providers. However, they often lack advanced policy management and expense tracking features, which are essential for corporate travel management. 

Corporate Travel Management (CTM) Software

Corporate travel management (CTM) software is what businesses imagine when they picture traditional business travel solutions. CTM systems are tailored to help companies manage travel needs with policy integration, tracking, and reporting. Like OTAs, these platforms offer robust flight, hotel, and car rental options; however, they allow for more customization in compliance guardrails, providing better control over travel spend and budget than OTAs. 

Travel Management Company (TMC) Software

Travel management company (TMC) software offers bespoke services particularly beneficial for businesses that handle complex travel itineraries and provide traveler support. TMC software solutions typically come equipped with a vast suite of services, including dedicated agents, that streamline support for employees and clients. Like OTAs, TMCs negotiate deals with travel suppliers, including hospitality providers and travel vendors, to provide deep discounts.

Global Distribution System (GDS) Software

Global distribution system (GDS) software is often considered the backbone of travel booking systems. GDS platforms connect travel agencies and corporate booking tools with real-time global data from airlines, hotels, and car rental companies. Therefore, GDS can offer extensive booking options, particularly for international corporate travel programs. However, GDS programs are known to be complex and may require specialized training to leverage effectively.

New Distribution Capability (NDC) Integration 

As the name might suggest, new distribution capability (NDC) is a more recent component of travel booking systems that simplifies older GDS capabilities, particularly for air travel businesses. Introduced in 2015, NDC allows air travel providers to directly issue itineraries, booking capabilities, and ancillary services (like add-on purchases such as onboard WiFi) to corporate travel members. In other words, airlines themselves issue traveler tickets in NDC systems.

5 Key Features to Look for in a Travel Booking Software Platform

No matter if your organization belongs to the travel industry or powers a corporate travel program, your travel booking software platform must enable a cost-effective means of handling your company’s specific needs while offering these five primary features: 

  1. User-Friendly Interface with Mobile Accessibility. With a need for on-the-go travel management, ensure the platform has an intuitive dashboard and fully functional mobile app that simplifies booking for administrators and travelers alike. Ease of use increases adoption rates and user satisfaction.
  2. Expansive Travel Inventory Management Capability.  A good travel booking software platform should provide access to a global inventory of flights, hotels, and car rentals. In contrast, a superior travel booking solution should also support direct contracts with suppliers for unprecedented discounted rates. 
  3. Robust Expense Management and Reporting Tools. Corporate travel technology must include features that offer real-time expense tracking and integration with accounting software to continuously monitor program spending and customizable reporting for ongoing cost control and budgeting. 
  4. Simplified Booking and Reservation Management Suite. Your chosen travel booking software platform must feature a robust booking engine with a secure payment gateway and reservation management capabilities, allowing for easy itinerary changes, cancellations, and tracking of overall travel spend.
  5. Integration with Travel Policies and Approval Systems. Every corporate travel program demands robust policy management tools that automate approvals based on custom travel policies and integrate with the current framework to ensure regulatory compliance and continuously control costs. 

Comparing Pricing and Support Options

Cheap does not equal cost-effective if a travel booking software platform cannot meet your needs. When comparing booking systems, consider subscription-based vs. per-transaction pricing. Subscription models are suitable for companies with high travel volume, as they offer unlimited bookings for a fixed fee. In contrast, per-transaction models may benefit companies with less frequent travel needs.

Likewise, be sure to contemplate the customer support and training offerings that each travel booking software platform option provides. In today’s fast-moving travel environment, reliable customer support is crucial for resolving traveler issues quickly. Seek providers offering comprehensive training resources to ensure your team can fully leverage the software’s capabilities.

Elevate Your Business with Unmatched Travel Rewards

Are you ready to harness the full power of travel services for your brand? With arrivia, businesses can tap into a world of exclusive itineraries, unparalleled discounts, and loyalty programs seamlessly integrating with existing company frameworks. Let’s shape your success story through travel—learn more about the arrivia advantage or request a demo to see our solutions in action!