Good Bye 2019 … Hello 2020!
December 21, 2019
December 21, 2019
Never was so much owed by so many to so few.Winston Churchill Aug. 20, 1940,
It’s been a CRAZY year! No, really! What our team has accomplished in 365 days is mind-numbing! Before we write 2019 up for the history books, I want to take inventory of what we did this year and say a few words about what 2020 is going to look like. Hold onto your hats… it’s storytelling time!!
We are a travel platform company. We exist to help hotels increase their bottom line. We do that by letting them sell more across an entirely new set of distribution channels and give them the tools they need to accurately track how successful their products are and measure KPIs for each channel. We lower their total cost of doing business by diversifying risk across multiple sales channels and we unify the technology landscape into a single dashboard so they can both get paid and the job done quickly and efficiently.
That was quite a mouthful. For those who like one-liners, iko.travel is the easy alternative for hotels that want more options than just selling through the large online travel agencies.
To build a platform such as this requires a whole lot of technology [understatement of the year], know-how and awesome integration partners. 2019 saw the birth of a unified travel platform travelers and hotels will enjoy for years to come.
Without further ado… 2019 in a nutshell!
As a startup, we always have to be careful with what our current hardware and software needs are. Being able to pay for only what we use today with the ability to scale as those needs grow is the beauty of cloud platforms. After playing around with different providers over the years, we finally went all-in with Google Cloud Platform’s App Engine, Google Firebase, Cloudflare and MongoDb Atlas; MongoDb’s managed database solution. As a result, we now have completely auto-scalable, load-balanced application servers and database servers with zero-downtime deployments, rollback, and failover features. Firebase distributes our Angular SPA / PWAs across all regions and Cloudflare Argo makes sure every application user has the fewest number of hops to get to them. That frees us up to focus on running a travel software business while all lower-level software and hardware are managed by the aforementioned platforms. It just works!
Did you know we are available 24/7? We tried out a bunch of enterprise chat services hotels and travelers can use to get in touch with us. We all love both the team and the service of tawk.to. These guys are passionate about customer service and offer a great product that scales with our needs. It lets us stay in touch with you and track every incident.
Channel Manager API
We spend 50% of our time integrating with other industry partners. That is both costly and time-consuming. We made the decision to help speed up the process by creating an easy, well-documented, API for channel managers to consume and produce travel inventory. This cut integration time down by almost 60%; allowing for more hotels to onboard more quickly.
Hotels deal with bookings coming from many different sources and it is hard to keep track at times. A lot of hotels wanted to see bookings show up in their calendar without having to verify with the channel manager or log into the extranet or check for incoming emails. We built an iCal compatible interface for them to connect with any calendar they use at their property.
The online journey for hotels actually starts with having a place in the digital domain. We teamed up with the nice guys at DigitalOcean and our hotels can now host their websites in fast, inexpensive and redundant data centers throughout the world. But, that’s just the beginning. Our platform is about unifying the entire travel experience. Hosting brings the hotels closer to us. These days, conversions are measured in terms like “site speed” and “mobile-first”. If you can sell 1. great products at 2. the speed of light in 3. a responsive way, you are already ahead of the game. DigitalOcean takes care of the speedy backbone. Our partner, WebConnection, supports our hotels with mobile responsive websites and SEO optimization. We take care of serving up dynamic inventory at light speed.
Rate Parity Insight
The #1 time-waster for any hotel is dealing with rate parity warnings from the large OTAs.
Scenario: OTA 1 will tell the hotel they are breaking rate parity on OTA 2 and to do something about it pronto or face blacklisting. 99.9% of the time, it is the OTAs breaking their own rate parity by being bad actors.
Hotels still spend WAAAY too much time hunting down discrepancies they had nothing to do with. We teamed up with RateGain to be able to offer hotels a uniquely priced version of their Parity+ software. It’s a rate parity monitor that looks to see who is not playing fair with hotel rates. Parity+ is usually only available to larger chains. However, more often than not, it’s the smaller hotels that really need a rate parity tool such as this.
When you hear channels, you immediately start thinking about channel managers and pushing availability to booking.com. Our definition of channel completely changed in 2019. We wanted a channel to encompass anyone that wanted to sell travel inventory. We wanted to make bespoke travel inventory widely available everywhere. Through our APIs, SDKs and Web Components, anyone with a little technical prowess, and a passion for travel, can make their own websites transactional in a few minutes.
In 2019, we democratized travel inventory the same way ride-sharing apps democratized the driver. Hotels can sell inventory across 10000+ channels and track the KPI of each one. You can read more about this in our previous article “Win the War by Selling More!“
Hotels want to sell on their own terms. While working with hotels, chains and brands, we developed the most advanced pricing engine to sell discounted travel inventory. The engine gives hotels utmost control over the Who, When and Where and is meant to be used in conjunction with our new channel features.
2019 has also been the year of Fintech; making cross-border payments more secure, easier, faster and more cost-effective as well as on improving on the quality of service for integrators [we’re looking at you Stripe!]. The next 5 years will see a plethora of payment gateways and new ways to pay; both for consumers and the enterprise. PSD2 and SCA are upon us. We took the first step by integrating with Stripe and its new payment API that is fully PSD2/SCA as well as PCI DSS compliant. This lets hotels accept and receive payments directly into their bank accounts and have full control over the customer experience.
PayPal became an option for our hotel partners this year as well.
Finally, we wanted to look towards the future. As a result, we opted to support the most well-known cryptocurrencies as a new payment method. Travelers can choose to pay hotels with Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ether. It’s a fun space to be in and we love the teams behind these projects.
We know hotels want to sell more on their own terms. That starts with their brand.com site and this year we made that possible. With our, built-for-mobile-first booking engine any hotel can display dynamic and membership rates on their home page and sell rooms, packages, add-ons, restaurants, spas, meeting rooms, experiences and more directly on their site. The focus was on getting hotels selling at the speed of light with as few clicks as possible. Hotels can track conversion, goals, and funnels through their Google Analytics account.
…and we went to ITB Asia 2019
Part of our work is to get the word out and addressing the issues in our industry with knowledgeable players. I was joined on stage by Fabien Bartnick of Infinito, Matthew Faull of Swiss-Belhotel Intl. and Kevin Rautenbach of WebConnection.
Security and Error Reporting
Our platform requires 99.999% uptime, quick response times and the knowing that customer data is secure, encrypted and untouchable. Our team gets immediate updates from our platform if services are under attack or not performing as they should. This is made possible thanks to sentry.io. Sentry.io is a state-of-the-art error reporting solution that does the heavy lifting for us and gives us an unprecedented insight into how all our code functions in production. It helps us write better software. We have used Sentry.io for years but we wanted to headline this amazing tool as our November feature. Not a day goes by without us using it.
This industry is really about who you know, or in our parlance, who you integrate with. We added a bunch of channel managers this year. For this holiday season, we welcome Allotz, d-edge (formerly Availpro) and Rate Tiger to the family.
What’s in store for 2020?
In 2020, we are focusing on a few things:
1. Onboarding a LOT more hotels. We have 2300+ hotels on the platform at the moment. That number will look completely different by the end of next year.
2. More integrations with channel managers and property management systems.
2. Increase the number of payment options in every region we support.
3. Continue to build out our line of custom Web Components for our channel consumers.
4. A few new surprise features coming to our marketplace soon 😉
From all the team at iko.travel and traveliko, we wish you and yours all the best for this holiday season. May 2020 be a year of happiness, prosperity and health for you, your family and your colleagues. Together, let’s build a better future for our children and our fellow [wo]man.
Thank you for a fun 2019!
Get ready for an exiting 2020!
Bjorn Harvold is the CTO and co-founder of iko.travel and traveliko.com