If you’re hopping on a plane or staying in a hotel anytime soon, it’s likely you booked those reservations online. But what about the tours and attractions you’re planning to see on your getaway? Whether it’s a day trip snorkeling in Palawan or a visit to an elephant sanctuary in Phuket, it’s tough for activity operators to make sure that travelers around the world can snag a spot for their activity.
Dawid Makowski, CTO of BeMyGuest, is changing that. BeMyGuest is providing attraction, tour, and activity (collectively, travel activities) operators across Asia with the complex API they need to offer their services online and to connect them with Asia’s vast distribution network of online travel agents (OTAs). It’s an industry poised for rapid growth, as Asians only book a very small percentage of their travel activities online (versus booking 90 percent of their flights and hotels online). In fact, in-destination activity reservations are usually made once customers land in their destinations, often via walk-ins, on-site ticket lines, or phone calls and emails directly from the consumer to the operator.
“Travel audiences today are very tech savvy and using mobile to book and pay for their travel arrangements—and they’re expecting to have the same mobile option to book and pay for their in-destination travel experiences,” Makowski says. The trend is “now slowly shifting from very traditional booking methods for ‘things to do’ in destination, which is why we’ve been committed to helping this industry segment to grow their digital operations for almost a decade. The potential is enormous.”
Part of the reason that travel activities companies in Asia have been slower to make the switch to online bookings is because they require a far more complex software platform than other travel providers such as airlines and hotels. Air and hotel products are structurally and operationally uniform. Hotel rooms come in similar inventory categories (single rooms, double rooms, deluxe rooms, and suites), as do plane flight seats (economy, premium economy, business, first). Such uniformity allowed OTAs to develop standardized reservation and inventory management systems, delivering consumers a relatively general online selection and booking experience through websites and mobile apps. The parameters required to book a flight or hotel online are fairly standard: an API needs to know your personal identification information, the dates and location of your travel, and minimal preferences such as the meal option on a flight or room type at a hotel.
“In comparison, there is little uniformity in inventory structure, operational, or booking processes for travel activities, whose range covers a broad variety of types of things to see or do,” says Makowski. “The requirements to book a balloon ride, a bungee jump, a theme park ticket, a guided day tour or a scuba dive, to name a few examples, are completely different and the lack of consistency in scope, function, and technology of such highly diverse travel activities have made them incredibly difficult to standardize from an online booking perspective.”
“Additionally, many in this tourism industry segment don’t have the staff or capacity to operate software systems at the same level that major airlines and hotel chains do,” says Makowski, “so the API has to be user-friendly enough that operators without tech staff can figure it out.”
For the past four years, Makowski has put together an agile tech team with the majority having at least a decade of experience in the industry. They’re based in Singapore, where they enjoy the tech infrastructure and its proximity to the rest of Asia, but the team hails from global corners including Europe, South America, Southeast and North Asia.
Now on the third iteration of their API, Makowski says they’re excited about Xplore—a complete SaaS solution for travel activity businesses they’ve brought into the world. Xplore makes it possible for travel activity operators to provide the same service level of ‘instant booking’ that travelers are accustomed to when booking flights and hotels.
“We do this by providing them access to technology that helps them automate manual sales processes and digitize their capacity, online bookings, deliver e-tickets, on-site scanning redemption, booking management and more, and ultimately connect them to the largest OTAs in Asia through our API,” says Makowski.
“I can honestly say that we think it’s the best solution for travel activities in the market because it covers everything,” says Makowski. “It gives complete control to the operators of attractions, tours, and activities with content editors, pricing, translations, and of course the whole booking process is automated.”
In the world of travel experiences, some of these bookings are more extreme than others. Makowski says they’ve worked with tour operators who provide vacationers with the chance to wrestle snakes or train to become a ninja. The team at BeMyGuest might not be jumping into the snake pit anytime soon, but they will be there to make sure that anyone brave enough to do so can book that adventure online.
from AWS Startups Blog