So we covered Need. Will it scale? Definitely. I've identified a market, and also found a way to market this service to them once it's built. Will this service need my Time? Yes. To get it built. But once running, Time will not be tied to $$$, so even while I'm not working on this service income will be generated.
NTS will work, I'm confident in that. But what about CE?
Turns out Control and Entry are more interesting. Let's lift a tip of the veil. A big aspect of this service will be flight (and later on, train) bookings. Over the past weeks I've been researching what is possible there, and I'll provide a bit of an overview here in case anyone ever needs something similar. I've looked on the forum here but there is not a lot so here's a 101 into online travel.
To be able to sell airline tickets and/or rail online, you will need:
There are some ways of getting access to any or all 4. I'll give you a list, even!
- Access to a (searchable) inventory. Find flight from A to B, with carrier Z.
- Access to a pricing API - what does that specific fare cost?
- Access to a booking API - can I secure that fare until my customer pays me?
- Access to a ticketing API - thank you for your business, here's a ticket.
For full control, but higher cost of entry you will need to go to a GDS - Global Distribution Service. There's Amadeus in Europe, Sabre in the US, Travelport, and some more. They all offer all 4 of the above, and give full control over what you can do in terms of searching, booking and ticketing. And that control will not be subject to a lot of changes, as pretty much every travel agent has to go through them in some way. They have their revenue, and more is better.
Great! Except... These GDS are quite expensive. There are sales people involved before even being able to start a proof of concept. And they also make Entry a bit harder, as for some operations you will need to register as an official travel agent and a couple of other things. This definitely ticks Control and Entry - most control you will have unless you start your own airline, and barrier of entry is high enough to discourage many.
Thing is, I want to start building, see if the idea is feasible, ... I do want to invest in the entry, but not the numbers and effort they require. Yet, at least. If the idea grows this is probably the better way to go.
The alternative to using a GDS is using an OTA - Online Travel Agency. These parties are travel agents themselves, integrate with one or several GDS, and resell their access via various means. Since I want to build something that requires full control of the flow, I'll need access to an API out there that gives me all 4 of the points mentioned before.
Some parties I have found through various search queries:
Anyone see the theme here? By making Entry easier, Control seems to shift down - if I can't get a response, how can I keep at least some control?
- AirHob - they have a developer API for all of the above. Except, after two weeks and two reminders their support hasn't responded to some basic questions I had yet. If I want to provide value to my customers, I'll need a vendor that does the same.
- Kiwi.com - they have an API and can cover all 4 points. But after searching for booking experiences with them, I found a lot of negative comments. Mileage could vary, but let's not spend time integrating to discovered I can't provide value because they don't.
- Travelopro - not even sure what they provide, and haven't heard back from them yet either.
- Travelomatic - same story.
Spoiler alert: I've found another one that is very responsive, but will talk about them in a future post.
And a tip for people looking for ideas needing execution: create a developer-friendly way to get all these 4 points, have some support folks, and outcompete all of the above OTA's that provide an API.
So we've had OTA's. Is there anything else out there? Yes there is! Affiliate programs with an API. These are what they are: affiliate programs that provide a search, and give an affiliate link to go book at an airliner/Expedia/... It only ticks box one (search), but for a minimum viable product (MVP) I could live with that. Parties I've found:
So what to do? Go with full control and a higher cost of entry? Or a lower cost of entry, less control, but a faster time to market. Questions, questions... But it's getting late here so signing off.
- Travelpayouts - they have an API that uses cached pricing and affiliate links, and a real-time API. I'd need the real-time API but the use case does not fit their requirements. So for my scenario, doesn't even work for an MVP...
- SkyScanner - except they only share revenue once you hit 1.3k in revenue per month. How about no...
EXECUTION Most liked posts in thread: [Progress] Starting another SaaS (travel industry this time)
In the previous post I mentioned GDS and OTA, and the conection between control and cost of entry. Ideally, I'd like to go with a GDS as that provides full control. Entry is higher though, and looking at integrating with them also looks like a longer time-to-market.
Some more searching landed me with an OTA that has the exact mission I described
Before starting to trial, I do want to get developing the surrounding service (flight booking is just one part), so let's make some progress there first. I now do have all building blocks I will be needing, nice!
Being a developer myself, there is no doubt I can do this. However one of the takeaways from my previous SaaS was to learn to delegate sooner (to be able to focus more on sales and business development), so I ended up looking for people on UpWork. Chatted with one, and figured out right now the idea is too "green" to have someone on board already. Seems like too much overhead to get an MVP created this way. So I'll start working on it myself after all.
Hoping to make some progress this week.Last edited: May 13, 2019
Got pinged by someone else here on the forum, to chat about the flight tickets side. He works at a travel agency so that should bring some additional thoughts and insights.
I'm happy to report I've made some progress on the app side! A web app is in the works, I can register/login/change password etc., and I've built 4 screens that are the start of the process I want to automate. Not yet sharing the idea (still too rough). Hope to share it soon once I have visualized the process a bit better. But ironically, my next week is full of travel with not much chance for making progress on this one... To be continued!Ocean Man likes this.
Don't spend too much time analyzing. It sounds like you have enough evidence that you need to start designing and coding.
I mentioned a bit earlier that someone here on the forum contacted me. That someone was @Axxoul who works in the travel industry. We had a quick call today and chatted a bit about things. He validated the first two posts of this thread: entry into the travel industry is hard and not very transparent. We chatted a bit about the process I'm implementing, and he got excited again about an idea he had in the past. In other words:
Regarding my own progress... Today was the last moment in ~2 weeks where I could spend meaningful time on this idea (business travel upcoming), and I spent it on refactoring some parts of the code I have. This should make it easier to make progress in the future, but there's no visible progress on the service idea for now. Will be quiet for a while.
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