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A Brief Guide on an Online Travel Agency’s Back Office

A Brief Guide on an Online Travel Agency’s Back Office

Digitization has had a massive impact on the travel and tour industry in the last decade or so. One of the most significant transformations in this context is the one travel agencies have gone through. They are no longer confined to a brick-and-mortar setup and have expanded to “virtual” branches via websites on the internet. Gone are the days when people would go to a travel agency office in-person to plan and book flights and accommodations. Today, they like to do all of it on their devices.

A robust online travel agency caters to all those who like to take care of their entire travelling itinerary from their devices. While it is easy for a client to use an online travel agency or portal, the making of such a portal is a tall order. An online travel agency is a set of multitudes of connectivity channels governed by expansive, complex systems that connect travellers, agencies, suppliers, and vendors.

The back office is where all this “wiring” of a robust travel agency is laid down. This is why devising and implementing back office protocol comes out as the most challenging task when opening an online travel agency. You can set an agency’s front office (a web interface) with the quickest turnaround time. It is the back office where you have to make the most effort and this where a robust travel management system also comes into play.

To give you a clear sense of what a travel agency’s back office is and how it works, we will provide a quick rundown of its major components.

Booking Desk

The booking desk is the most crucial element of a travel back office. It is essentially a virtual booking counter that process bookings without needing manual instructions and inputs. It is integrated with payment gateways and also able to collect customer data to book automatically. But this is how a simple booking desk works. On the other hand, robust travel management systems provide you multifaceted booking desks that don’t just book online and linear travelling plans. These virtual desks also cater to all those bookings on call.

Also, ever travelling itinerary is not a simple plan of travelling from point A to B. It is regular for a travel agency to process complex bookings involving discounts, memberships, transfers, and a range of other additional services. Moreover, many travellers plan and book tours with multiple destinations that entail a lot of air travel and accommodation details. The booking desk lying in the travel agency’s back office takes care of all sorts of booking details irrespective of the layers and components it involves.

Inventory and Supplier Management

At its core, a travel agency is a liaison that connects travellers with suppliers/vendors. A good travel agency is the one that ensures it is making this connection as seamless as possible. The back office plays an integral role in how a travel agency manages its working connection with suppliers and vendors.  

GDC Connectivity

Global Distribution System "GDS" is the largest travel warehouse. Travel agencies, agents, and B2B clients get access to extensive inventory networks of airlines, hotels, resorts, cruises, and all other commute services on the GDS. You can either connect to the GDS manually or through the travel back office’s API integration.

However, a travel agency doesn’t necessarily need GDC connectivity to work with suppliers. They can also have their back office designed to establish separate connections with different supplier/vendor categories. For instance, they can connect the central reservation systems of hotels through API integration.

Similarly, airlines have started working with New Distribution Capability (NDC) to provide inventory access to travel agencies without needing GDS. Airlines prefer to NDC over GDC to get a better hold of how travellers can use their additional services.

CRM and Customer Service and Support

An online travel agency and a traveller can do business (booking, invoicing, payments, confirmations, etc.) without making any one-one-one or in-person communication. Nonetheless, an agency still needs to streamline its CRM and customer service and support like any other business. A back-office also takes care of that aspect.

For instance, it uses the ingredients of robust CRM software to identify and segment different groups of customers based on how they have used your travel front office (website). This customer segmentation allows you to customize your interaction and make it more effective.

Also, the back office’s CRM leg lets you integrate social media platforms on your travelling working desk. Today, the travel office’s social media integration is crucial to stay at arm’s length with your clients. You will be able to listen to and respond to what potential and existing customers are talking about travelling wise.

A travel back office can also outline a dynamic customer service and support through SMS and other messaging gateway API integrations. It can also facilitate agencies with local contact numbers through VoIP. Similarly, email and live chat can also be integrated there to devise a holistic customer service experience.

Payment Processing and Accounting

This is the last of the four main divisions of a travel back-office system. It takes care of all the payment transactions between travellers and agencies and agencies and vendors (hotels, airlines, etc.). Since payments from travellers are processed through regular e-commerce payment gateways, you can manage them through boilerplate modules. However, the transactions between the agency and vendors need to be taken care of with more diligence.

A travel back office should be able to connect with IATA’s BSP (Billing and Settlement Plan) and ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation). These are the two approved channels that make payments to airlines for travel agencies after processing the agencies’ booking and travelling information. Hotels are not connected to such a centralized system. There, a back office takes care of payments between the agency and individual hotels through merchant (advance payment) or agency (post-booking invoicing) models.

The payment processing and account component of a travel back office also take off all the vendors and customers’ invoicing, maintaining a detailed accounting ledger, and exchange rates.

If you want to establish a robust travel back office with all the divisions discussed above, get in touch with TravnetTech. It can deliver you a travel back-office that can meet the modern travel technological requirements. Our experts can also equip your operations with a front office, travel search engine, and

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