In recent years, we have seen the rise of ‘travel’ as one of the most profitable niches as far as online businesses are concerned. When it comes to starting a travel business online, one of the most lucrative ideas would be to start an online travel aggregator website. To capitalize on this lucrative business opportunity presented by the travel industry, let’s look at how to go about building a travel portal.
How Online Travel Aggregators Work
Travel aggregator sites rely on online travel agencies, hotel and flight company websites to pull the data to be shown for user queries. Online travel aggregator websites help the users get an overall picture of the rates and availability across multiple vendors without actually visiting different websites.
All they have to do is enter their journey dates and the website would provide them with data aggregated from multiple sources. In a recent survey conducted by a leading travel site, about 50% of the respondents agreed that the convenience provided by meta-search engines is invaluable in their travel booking experience.
Building a Travel Aggregator Website
To put it in simple words, you need a CMS that can act as the framework for your website, a front-end that can match the aesthetics of a travel website and an engine that can pull data from the APIs provided by other travel websites and data providers. Apart from this approach, you can also build it from scratch or use one of the readily available scripts for travel portals. Let’s look at the options.
1. Build it from Scratch
The robustness of a web application would be at its best when it’s built from scratch. This option also leaves more room for incorporating your ideas in a much more efficient manner. You wouldn’t have to make compromises based on the existing travel portal scripts and can create something that will work flawlessly with the technologies you want to integrate into it.
The downsides of this approach are development time and the cost. Hiring a developer and building your site from scratch is definitely going to cost you high in terms of time and money. However, if flexibility is something that you prioritize, you should take this route. Travel websites can easily become larger and you should hence opt for programming languages like Laravel and Ruby on Rails for their ease of code management and flexibility.
2. Build on top of WordPress
Everyone knows how WordPress can be used to build literally any kind of website. This is because you can code a plugin for WordPress to give it additional capabilities, and it all works like a charm. WordPress is very versatile and is especially good for beginners, as the cost of tweaking a WordPress setup is significantly lower than building a website from scratch.
When it comes to building an online travel portal, WordPress has some ready-to-use themes and plugins that can make your job much easier. You don’t even need to be a programmer to set up a travel portal on WordPress. In the case of WordPress, all you need is a travel theme and a plugin to build a functional website.
a. WordPress themes
The themes we’re about to introduce are all compatible with the newest version of WordPress and use the best performance enhancing practices to ensure a smooth user experience. These themes are also loaded with booking forms, multiple payment methods and are even compatible with popular plugins like WooCommerce. These functionalities can instantly turn your WordPress site into a full-fledged travel website.
b. WordPress plugins
Here are some travel portal WordPress plugins that you can use to turn your ordinary WordPress site into a complete travel portal. You should use a travel theme along with these plugins to render a complete experience.
This WordPress plugin enables safe online booking and reservation facility on travel websites. Other features include supplier and agent management, customer relationship management and reporting.
Travel Agent is a utility WordPress plugin with features such as enhanced scheduler and tourists database. It can be used to dynamically create and manage a database of tourists, which is nothing short of an essential aspect of a travel business.
Travel Routes lets you incorporate geographical tags on Google maps within WordPress posts. This will dynamically generate the locality terms and country names and you can even order the locations randomly with dates to identify routes.
3. Travel Website Engines
You can use dedicated web scripts or engines to build your travel portal, and this is especially easier as the script takes care of all the key aspects of a travel website. Travel website scripts typically come with features such as booking engine, billing and invoicing system, modules based functions for each section and customization options to fit your requirements perfectly.
Aggregating Data for the Travel Portal
Once you have built up your travel aggregator website into a finished product, it’s time to connect it with the data feeds. Data is the fuel on which your travel aggregator website will run and ensuring access to travel data from online travel agencies and hotel and flight company sites is essential. Now, let’s look at the popular ways of aggregating data for a travel portal.
1. Free APIs
Most of the leading meta-search engines have their affiliate programs whereby they give you free access to their APIs. You can easily join them to get API access which can be used to feed your travel aggregator site. This solves two of your challenges in one shot–data aggregation and revenue generation. Some popular affiliate programs with API access are:
You can easily configure your travel search engine to pull data from these APIs.
2. Web Scraping Services
Not all travel websites provide an API. Apart from that, the APIs might not have some of the data fields that are essential for your business. This is when you need a web crawling service that can turn the unstructured data present on travel websites into structured data feeds which can be connected to your database in order to populate your travel portal. Since building your own web crawling setup isn’t a viable solution considering the high-tech barriers and cost involved, it’s better to rely on a fully managed web scraping service provider to meet your data needs.
Travel is a lucrative industry, and the opportunities presented by it have skyrocketed with the advent of online travel companies. Building your own travel portal is a great way to get your share of this hefty pie. You can use this guide to decide how you want to go about building your first travel business online.