Managing an Online Travel Agency: How an OTA’s Back Office System Works

How the OTA Back Office Works

  • Inventory management — organization of connectivity to suppliers via different channels
  • Booking desk — manual or automatic handling of bookings
  • Business rules — the logic behind an organization’s decision-making
  • Accounting — payment processing and reporting
  • Analytics — metrics and reports about business, customers, and employees
  • Customer relationship management — tools for understanding and handling customer activity
  • Customer service — managing different channels for engaging with customers
  • User management — tools for establishing user roles and permissions
Online travel ecosystem
  1. Checking availability. A booking engine receives the availability request and checks it from all the different providers via an API.
  2. Sending availability back to the user. Providers then return this information, which the OTA processes and filters according to a user’s preferences and their own business rules.
  3. Sending a booking request to a supplier. Once a user confirms a booking and pays via an integrated payment gateway, the booking request is sent to a provider (GDS, hotel, airline, etc.)
  4. Receiving a confirmation. The provider must issue a ticket (in case of airlines) or send a booking confirmation (hotels). The confirmation is received by an OTA booking engine and then is sent to a traveler via email or is displayed on the front end side for download.
  5. Documenting customer data. All information a client leaves on the website (their name, email, location, etc.) is carefully documented in a CRM system.
  6. Managing back office users. The user management system also records and stores data about the agents working with the back office.
  7. Analyzing booking data. Both customer and employee data can then be used by the Business Intelligence module in creating insightful reports.
  8. Communicating with customers. In case of any problems or questions, customers contact customer service staff via accessible channels.

Booking desk

OTA architecture
Example of GDS terminal for travel agents

Travel inventory and supplier relationships

Adding inventory data manually (CMS)

Hotel connection via Extranet

Hotel connection via CRS

Channel manager connection

Wholesalers connection

The complete booking process covered by the Hotelbeds wholesaler

GDS connection

NDC connection

The list of airlines that adopted NDC and IT providers certified by IATA. Source: NDC Standard Presentation 2018

Customer relationship management

Identifying customers

Differentiating and segmenting

Interaction

Zoho Social feature in Zoho CRM

Customization and personalization

Customer service and support

Messaging

Live chat

Outsourced call centers

Unified communication software

Accounting and payment processing

Hotel payments

Merchant vs agency model

Flight payments

ARC and BSP in the Travel Industry
  1. Customer pays on an OTA via a payment gateway.
  2. During previously discussed time periods and channels, an OTA sends all booking and ticketing information to ARC or BSP.
  3. ARC or BSP then pays the airline.

Accounting software

Reports and analytics

Business health

An example of marketing metrics from Klipfolio

Agent productivity

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence for travel businesses solution by wbe.travel

Business rules

Business rules engine provided by TravelCarma
The architecture of Business Rules Management Systems

User management

User account management from BigCommerce

Final tips

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