Travel as a Service: How to Develop a Travel Platform

Mar 26, 2024
11 min read
Travel as a Service: How to Develop a Travel Platform
Oleksandr Bulanov
Oleksandr Bulanov
Backend Competency & Tech Lead

2023 became the year of travel. According to the ‘Stats of Mobile 2023’ report, the number of traveling app downloads increased by 13% compared to 2022. We see a significant boost in ticket booking, hotel services, and transportation applications. Even compared with the most touristic 2019 year, traveling apps are developing stunningly.
Travel as a Service: How to Develop a Travel Platform 1
We want to tell you how to build a competitive travel app that will enter the market smoothly, generating a nice cashflow.

Key Features of Travel Apps

Even a simple travel app must have numerous basic features. They are the same for all kinds of applications: small single-purpose solutions and full-scale international platforms. So, there are the features every traveling app must have:

  • Registration and profile. Personalization is everything in the travel business. Even a simple log-in system helps a company to track and analyze clients’ behavior and preferences. This feature is primary for designing special offers, content personalization, and deep data analysis. Still, it’s also convenient for customers because they can access browsing and purchase history and get more relevant content and offers. 
  • Search, filters, and listings. Travel apps are designed for customers who search data: considering flight and hotel booking, reading about various tourist destinations and sightseeing, and comparing different offers and prices. So, any traveling app must have a way to search data and suitably display the results. 
  • Booking. Whether your app offers services or goods, it must have a system to order them. Connecting the app with systems is crucial, allowing customers to buy tickets, book hotel rooms, and reserve tourist permits. Moreover, it’s one of the main features to earn money for an app. 
  • Payment system. It’s closely related to the previous feature. If clients may order something, they must have a way to pay for it. So, it’s crucial to connect an app with popular local and international payment systems like PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Stripe, WePay, and others. Pay special attention to the local banking systems your target audience commonly uses. Direct partnership with them will make an app more customer-friendly.
  • Ratings and reviews. It’s a critical UX feature that simplifies the selection process for customers when your app has many available offers. Enthusiastic reviews significantly help in the sales funnel, eliminating customers’ doubts. 
  • Notifications. It’s a multi-purpose feature that aims to remind clients of their appointments and planned journeys. But another vital function is to encourage customers to use an app and create a loyal audience. 

Keep in mind that these features are basic, any traveling app must have them. But the other features depend on the type of application, available budget, target audiences, and distribution markets.

Travel App Development Steps

Travel application development is a complicated process. That’s why a company must adhere to estimated steps, reducing the risks of mistakes and helping to make better decisions. There are five main steps to build a travel platform:

1. Conduct deep market research

The tourism industry is intensely competitive. That’s why a company must conduct profound research in the local market, active trends, direct and indirect competitors, and perspective gaps that may be filled with a specific solution. 

This step is crucial because it determines a general idea of the application and its future success in the market. Hitting the right niche and a target audience is half of success. That’s why we strongly recommend hiring an experienced team to perform a precise market analysis and help you build up from competitors. It may take 1-2 months.

2. Define app features

Choose the app type you need to design. Next, decide about its complexity, whether you need just a basic app or a full-scale all-in-one travel platform. 

You must add all essential features like a registration system, search bar, listings, and notification. However, the main challenge here is developing its unique features to attract the target audience. 

At this stage, you also must calculate an approximate budget required for development because traveling platform development may be pricey. 

3. Hire an experienced developing team

In-house travel platform development is relevant only if your team has strong expertise in all required technologies. But in our experience, rare travel agencies really have such knowledge and expertise.

Hiring an experienced development company is a better solution to protect you against risks that may occur during the various development stages. As a result, it may be even cheaper than developing a travel website or platform on your own — experienced specialists will complete an app faster and with much fewer corrections. 

4. Design an MVP

Creating a minimum viable product is critical to understanding how the planned features work in real products. 

Still, companies may skip this step if they develop some basic app or point solution. But if developing a multi-functional app, it’s a key to success in the long run. 

When all required features work, conduct an alpha test and gather honest participant feedback. At this stage, products are often significantly updated according to the real desires of the customers. 

5. Develop and test

If you hire a development team instead of designing a product on your own, you need only check the milestones and nothing more. No interference with the developing travel software is required. 

But still, it’s crucial to check how all complicated features work. That’s why testing processes must be severe. Travel industry clients are picky and selective, so an app usually has only one chance to impress them. If not, it will be hard to retain potential clients in the future. The same applies to small single-purpose apps and huge complex solutions. So, test the product carefully. 

Usually, the development stage takes about 3-9 months, depending on the project’s complexity. Testing takes less time: about 1-3 months.

Only when the previous stages are flawless the product may be fully launched.

Travel Software Development Tech Stack

Many programming technologies can be used in developing a travel platform. And it’s essential to weigh their pros and cons. Let’s talk about the most popular ones;

When choosing a back-end tech stack, you must realize what type of software you need and accurately define its key features. The choice of programming language and frameworks depends on this.

JavaScript and Node.js are usually used to create fast and scalable applications. But if you need to accent maintainability and ease the development process, Ruby on Rails is a wise solution. And if you want a stable and easy-to-upgrade application, consider choosing Python and Django.

Developers also have some preferences for front-end development:

  • React Native is commonly used for designing cross-platform solutions. Creating a single codebase for iOS and Android apps is an excellent choice. Still, it requires substantial expertise and lots of tests. 
  • Flutter is another popular framework for cross-platform development that allows even the creation of web and PC applications. It provides a smooth UX experience, but designing full-scale and multifunctional apps may be difficult.
  • Swift, Objective-C, Java, or Kotlin are required when you create native apps for each platform. Usually, they are more stable but require much more work to design and support.

As for database technologies, MongoDB and other NoSQL databases are used for operating unstructured or partially structured data, and MySQL is considered better for handling fully structured information. 

To provide fast and stable connections, travel apps also use cloud services: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and others. Some apps use geolocation and mapping based on Google Maps API or Mapbox services.

What to Keep in Mind when Building a Travel Platform

There are already loads of accommodation search services, flight booking aggregators, and sources of travel advice. To create something that will resonate with your audience, you have to ensure that it is genuinely useful, easy to use, and speaks the same language they do.

Your audience

If you want to develop a travel platform, the best strategy is not to fight the established leaders but to approach a narrow audience that has specific interests. It can be dedicated to surfers, music festival fans, family travelers, or sports nuts. By targeting a niche audience, you have an opportunity to become the preferred travel companion for that niche. Your users will see you as a trustworthy source of information that is particularly interesting to them. The smaller your niche, the easier it will be for you to understand and meet their needs.

The user experience

If you want to create a travel booking website, you have to make it either adaptable for mobile platforms or create a standalone app for it.
You should identify when users will need your service – whether during the planning stage or during the trip itself. Either way, it still must be available from any device. And remember: a tidy UX is as critical to the success of your future business as the quality of the service. In fact, the UX is a part of it.

The rapid march of technology and modern life teach people anything but patience, so making your app understandable and intuitive is worth the effort.

The technology

Today, users are used to having their device read their thoughts and predict their needs. This ability has to be embedded both within the service interface and the opportunities it offers the traveler (including through travel API integration). That’s why it’s a good idea to build a travel website using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to provide users with highly relevant suggestions and options that enhance their travel experience. By the way, find out more about why Python is better to use for AI.

Read also: Using AI and ML in the travel industry

Cost to Build Travel Software

The cost of travel software development strongly depends on several factors, including:

  • Application complexity. Point solutions are much more affordable than all-in-one apps. Designing a trip advisor app would cost a few times less than creating a full-scale multifunctional travel system.
  • Supported platforms. Designing software for iOS and Android requires different processes. The same goes for web-version and desktop apps. The more platforms, the more expensive. 
  • The market size. Designing an app for a local market is much faster and cheaper than creating an international and multilingual platform available worldwide. 

Basic travel software costs $100,000 to $300,000. But if it has many complicated features, the price immediately goes sky-high and may reach $500,000 or even more.

Here is an approximate cost of each development stage of a travel app:

Consider that the prices are relevant if the average hourly pay for developers is $50. This is true for teams from Asia, Eastern Europe, or Latin America, but hiring developers from the USA or Western Europe may cost a few times more.

Sure, the cost of travel app development also depends on the software type. Here are some approximate prices for designing different kinds of travel apps in basic configurations:

In general, developing a basic travel app takes 3-5 months. It’s about 5-9 months for a full product with complex features. Producing a full-fledged competitive international product would take about a year or more.

Bonus: Tips from within the Industry

Every person on a software development team wants to build a product they’re genuinely proud of. But it takes Thousands of steps and a world of knowledge to create a reliable and profitable service. It’s not an easy job. As an experienced travel website development company that’s invested in the success of its clients, we’ve collected and summarized the best recommendations on how to build a great travel service. Every tip is based on first-hand experience. If you want to learn how we approached all the challenges outlined above, check out our ebook and get one step closer to your goal – an online travel service your users will love.

Fortunately, everything you need to know before entering this space is the ebook ‘Travel as a Service: How to Develop a Travel Platform,’ published by our web development company to help emerging businesses.

Here, we share our best practices, technical solutions, management tips, and every useful insight we’ve got while working on our projects.

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    Travel as a Service: How to Develop a Travel Platform 2

    Did you know that we are experts not only in travel platform development, but also provide taxi application development services. Therefore, if you have thoughts in this direction, you can also contact us.
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    Frequently Asked Questions
    How can I identify the target audience for my travel platform?
    To find the most relevant audience for your specific travel platform, it’s enough to perform three steps:
    • Use interest-based targeting. It’s the most convenient way for a travel agency to reach their potential clients. Try different combinations of demographic, household, employment, and lifestyle segments and carefully track the advertising campaign performance.
    • Engage niche audiences. Nowadays, we see the rise of unorthodox ways of tourism. For example, ecotourism or solo extremal campaigns. Consider contacting with such unusual audiences.
    • Apply personalization and big data analysis. Integrating first-party customer data with automated software solutions can significantly boost the level of understanding the customer needs and design better travel offers for them.
    How important is mobile responsiveness in a travel platform?
    It’s critical. Over 74% of travel agencies customers use smartphones for reading about offers in the market, booking package tours, and buying tickets. Mobile responsiveness allows to keep up with these potential clients.
    What are some post-launch strategies for maintaining and growing a travel platform?
    After a full-scale launch of travel platform, you need to focus on marketing and brand management. Moreover, it’s crucial to track and improve all milestones of a user trip: from the first contact with a potential customer to re-buys and an after-sales contact.

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