Why APIs are so important to the holiday park industry
08 December 2018
As every holiday park owner knows, it can be a pain allocating a portion of your accommodation to a 3rd party Online Travel Agent (OTA) to sell, only to find out that they haven’t managed to fill their fair share of availability. This is particularly frustrating when you’ve been turning customers away for the same dates your chosen OTA was unable to fill.
The fundamental flaw of working with an OTA is that the moment you delegate property to a third party, you lose control. Therefore, if the OTA underperforms, then your business underperforms too. Park operators are all too aware of this and are, quite understandably, reluctant to handover booking responsibilities to agencies who might let them down.
Traditionally, holiday park websites have worked on an enquiry basis. A potential guest will go on to a park website and send a booking enquiry via an online form, the park manually checks their availability and confirms whether accommodation is available. There tends to be a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on the phone or email before a firm booking is made. The customer journey between making an enquiry and finalising a booking in this setup is often slow, clunky and labour intensive for park owners.
Providing live holiday availability to guests while they are on a park website is obviously the goal to providing a fast and efficient booking funnel. But reaching the largest pool of holiday shoppers with that availability is also paramount.
The hotel industry have been using his model for many years – passing their live pricing and availability information to large OTA channels such as booking.com and Trivago . They have invested heavily in Application Program Interface (API) technology in order to make these connections possible.
But holiday parks differ in many ways to the selling of hotel rooms; throw in different pitch types and services and you can why selling holiday park and caravan accommodation isn’t so simple.
Over the last few years we have seen a number of dedicated holiday park OTAs spring up and other larger OTAs changing their methods of working to accommodate the complexity of holiday park availability.
to name a few. These additional booking channels allow holidaymakers to search for availability across multiple campsites, caravan parks and holiday parks in one go. They are a huge, powerful resource to tap into.
Potential guests are already searching these types of sites to book their holiday, so it make sense to ensure park availability can be found there too.
The OTAs make their APIs available to provide a connection between their sites and park booking systems. In most cases these API connections are 2-way which enables parks to sync pricing and availability.
As both parties have access to all the availability at all times parks can use the OTAs to their advantage with no more wasted booking enquiries.
How it works?
An API (Application Programming Interface) connects a park booking engine directly to the 3rd party OTA and;
- Sends bookings automatically from OTA into park booking system
- Syncs allocation from park booking system to OTA every few minutes
- Removes complexity by only having one data entry system
- Increases efficiency by reducing manual data entry, eliminating risk of human error
- Saves time by controlling park availability from one reliable booking system
- Saves money by avoiding costly duplicate bookings
What is the science behind an API?
Think of an API like a waiter that connects you (and your request) to a kitchen that prepares what you want and then brings that order back. An API is a messenger that takes requests and tells a system what you want to do and returns the response to you. An ‘open’ API means that any member of the public is allowed to put an order through with that proverbial waiter.
In practice, an open API allows your park booking system to not only connect with an OTA but also to access thousands of of other smart solutions. Investing in API technology should be a high priority for all parks in 2019.