A case about creating a B2B system for Latvian travel companies. Or how a tour operator can always display actual prices. And how to optimize the staff working time for coordinating the tour with the client.
In 2019 we at 2410 developed a B2B system for our customer - a tour operator in Latvia. This system was developed for end customers and travel agents. It helped to change the tour approving mechanism by e-mail to a convenient platform with up-to-date prices and a beautiful trip visualization.
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In 2017, we started working with a Latvian tour operator*, which already served about 25,000 customers on a regular basis.
When organizing tours, the company had to consider the current prices for flights and hotels, which are constantly changing. If the prices at the time of the tour are outdated or irrelevant, the company will receive less profit or even incur losses. Because it risks its own finances by issuing the tour and transferring it to travel agents for sale to end customers.
During cooperation, we found out the following:
- The company's staff is forced to monitor flight and accommodation price changes daily.
- All calculations are also being done manually and are entered into Google Sheets. Huge amounts of working tables makes it difficult to work.
- There is a high risk of the "human factor": like mistakes and prices do not always change promptly.
- The company provides a range of hotels within one tour, but they are coordinated with the client by email. This not only affects the company’s reputation, but also takes up the time of both the employee and the customer.
Technical problems encountered by our customer have been identified:
- The importance of fresh air ticket prices. The cost of flights is one of the important components of the tour cost. We found out that not all air ticket suppliers do have software communication methods (API/XML) that would allow us to simply connect to the supplier to get the up-to-date prices.
- Lack of a single payment system. The number of service providers is constantly increasing, but each of them provides a different data structure. The task was to combine all supplier formats into a single structure for subsequent price updates on the website and in the B2B system.
- The time for bid approval. The details were discussed with the customer via email. Additional time was spent on choosing the options of the accommodation. It took a long time, was inefficient and required additional human resources.
Consequently, one of the main tasks was to automate the process of forming the tour and its subsequent coordination with the customer.
Having studied the situation from the customer's point of view, we proposed to develop a platform that would combine all these solutions.
The purpose of the B2B system as a "transitional" stage to the online version was for employees to continue collecting and editing information on Google Sheets.
The system automatically collected data and put it into a structured form independently.
Therefore, the system was intended for the work of the following specialists:
- Travel company employees – the operators who selected the tour in the presence of the customer.
- Travel agents who sold self-designed tours to our client's company.
The platform performed the following tasks with various add-ons:
- It processed the websites of airline ticket suppliers (for example, Ryanair, WizzAir, Airbaltic).
- It synchronized data from hotel accommodation partners.
- It collected data from open sources, including hotel booking websites (Booking.com).
- It combined all the data into a single structure.
- It displayed current prices on the company's website.
The platform for our customers, tour operators, was created from scratch to meet the individual requirements of the customers.
It is based on three types of data sources: Google Sheets tables, API/XML and robots (parsers) for collecting the required information.
It is worth mentioning that our customer's website is based on Bitrix by 1C-Andi. Thanks to the collaboration with 1C-Andi, we managed to implement the integration with the website quite quickly. Currently, the current prices are always displayed on the website.
One of the B2B system elements is a calendar. It helped to form a bid for the customer based on the following data:
- country (with a list of cities for accommodation and excursions).
- tour type (air, buses, cruises).
- the number of days with the automatically calculated bid value.
Advanced tour search
Since several tours were formed in one country, we provided a convenient search filter in the system displaying tours, their directions, accommodation options, prices and dates.
Advanced search allowed users to create a list of tours based on the number of people. Since many hotels and airline ticket provides require the age information of the customers, we have created the following categories:
- ADULT – adults from 12 years old
- CHILD – children from 2 to 12 years old
- INFANT – infants below 2 years old.
When choosing a tour, users can view the full information including tour description, photos, arrival and departure times, an excursion program, etc.
The information like price, distance from the sea or the city center, additional amenities was collected automatically from suppliers websites, like booking.com.
Employees of the customer's company could still edit the information about the excursions by adding it via Google Sheets and Google Docs.
All the information was then visualized like a slideshow and snippets.
Best price charts
For the convenience of the customers, we developed the best price charts. That show the time when a tour can be purchased at the best price during the year.
Booking a tour
The booking / checkout process is developed in a classic way:
- Operator enters the information about tourists and their personal data.
- Specifies the accommodation and meal options for each tourist.
- If necessary, additional services (insurance and excursions) are added
If a customer chooses a bus tour, seats can also be booked here. The bus plan can still be edited on Google Sheets. The system will display them in a beautiful interactive widget.
When booking has been confirmed, the selected place becomes unavailable automatically. And another operator can pick up other available places for their customers.
When the booking has been completed, synchronization with the website takes place. The website always displays the current number of available seats for this tour.
Booking data is automatically sent to the bookkeeping application via XML. Therefore, a new order immediately goes to the bookkeeping software. The information includes all the contact details of tourists, that is necessary for proper accounting.
Cooperation with our customer was effective and fruitful. The company thanked us for the new product that could solve their main tasks:
- We reduced the time for checking and updating prices. Previously, employees spent about 3 hours a day on this, but now they spend no more than 10 minutes a week monitoring the data collection processes. What used to take about 66 hours a month now takes only 40 minutes a month.
- We reduced the risk of errors by eliminating the "human factor".
- We integrated the system with the website to synchronize the fresh prices for air tickets, accommodation and tours.
- Furthermore, we set up data export from the system to the bookkeeping software, as well as accompanying documents for tour organizers.
As a result, our platform helped the company to increase customer loyalty due to fresh prices and visually nice looking offers. Because they are “packed” into ready-made tours, beautifully and quickly.
Our cooperation with the travel company began at the end of 2017. Together with the customer, we worked for almost two years building and improving the B2B system.
However, first, we implemented the part of the project that gave the maximum return.
Therefore, the customer received the first results after a month of work – employees no longer had to manually monitor prices of the suppliers every day. It freed up about 3 hours a day for more important tasks.
*We do not specify the company name because we entered into a non-disclosure agreement.