Travel APIs: Types, Best Providers, and Integration Tips
Today’s travelers want to book flights, hotels, and car services on one platform. In this article, we explain how travel APIs work, provide you with examples of the most popular APIs, and give you a few integration tips.
What is a travel API and how does it work?
In the past, if a travel company wanted to expand their online business, they had to turn to a software development company and build a solution from scratch — or buy an existing product from another company.
Today, we have APIs for travel booking. They retrieve and process data collected by CRM systems and allow developers to connect to that data. An API is a kind of control panel for linking software components without having to work with the code itself. Companies license third-party software products through travel APIs, as it’s more efficient and faster than creating software components from scratch.
How exactly does travel API integration work?
Take Tripadvisor, for example. Tripadvisor is not just a website with travel content but a platform that allows visitors to read reviews, check prices, and book services in one place. Tripadvisor has over 200 million reviews and is a trusted source for millions of travelers. It works with hotels, restaurants, and attractions, collecting basic data (location, name, address, price) and updating it in real time.
A hotel booking API helps them do this. Tripadvisor partners such as online travel agents, hotel chains, and individual hoteliers provide their prices to the platform. When a user enters booking dates into the Tripadvisor search box, the website queries the Channel Partner API and Tripadvisor partners provide current prices.
Some vendors provide a hotel search API that allows you to access their services directly. If there is an integrated payment gateway API, travelers can make secure payments using their credit card, debit card, or e-wallet.
Main benefits of travel APIs:
- Increase traffic to your app and website by exchanging data between the two. Online travel agencies (OTAs) have listings of flights, hotels, events, taxi services, and so on, which they can get from multiple APIs from different companies. This can easily be shared via the Travel API.
- An API saves a huge amount of time. Various companies provide APIs that developers can use to add flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. to their applications. Otherwise, the entire inventory needs to be collected additionally.
- The ease of implementing a travel API simplifies the process. An API is the heartbeat of any online travel agency. It allows the travel agent to integrate an API for booking hotels and flights as well as integrate third-party APIs into the travel agent’s website.
- Travel APIs help retain customers. API integration ensures that whenever a customer searches to book a hotel or flight on your travel site, an airline API integration, flight booking API integration, etc. will convince you. that they won’t be redirected to another site, and payment will only be charged by your travel agent.
- Travel APIs assist in dynamic packaging. An API service provider shows packages for flights, hotels, cars, and other APIs with flexible pricing. You can integrate a dynamic package based on your needs. All changes can be made quickly so your travel business continues to grow.
Booking APIs are getting better and easier to use by both third parties and customers. This is why more and more partners are working directly with brands. It is a way to reduce the need for traditional tracking methods through affiliate networks and tracking service providers.
Types of travel APIs
Global distribution system
Global distribution system (GDS) APIs are travel data aggregators that serve booking websites and online travel agencies (OTAs). They provide the necessary data and allow you to reserve five main types of hotel rooms, flights, car rentals, train tickets, cruises, ferries, etc.
A global distribution system allows resellers to connect to a single API rather than interacting with each individual service provider. Amadeus, Saber, and Travelport are the top three GDS vendors, with a combined market share of nearly 100%.
While you can provide flight information through a GDS API, it is very important to have more granular control over flight booking details and allow travel agents to customize their bookings and receive a discounted flight booking API. Galileo’s multi-channel API, Go air are some of the world-famous travel booking APIs. The two key flight search APIs are Skyscanner and Flightstats.
There are several providers of hotel room inventory. Booking.com and Expedia are the largest, but additional providers such as Jack Travel, Orbitz, Hotwire, and Agoda offer inventory in specific locations or niches. By connecting to their APIs, you can retrieve room information and booking information as well as process reservations and cancellations.
Most car rental APIs allow you to create packages that include car rentals, flights, and hotels. Various vendors focus on car rentals in their APIs, allowing you to use inventory from their own fleets or major car rental brands.
Travel API integration tips
Choose a reliable supplier
The first step in choosing a supplier is to conduct thorough research. Make sure to select the supplier that is best for your travel agency based on availability, geography, rates, and requirements.
One supplier may have a wider range of hotels and better rates in your area than another, so it’s a good idea to check rates and availability ahead of time. And do your own research, as not every vendor provides multiple modules (hotels, flights, events, etc.) in their API. If you are going to sell hotels, flights, and car rentals, you need to either choose a supplier that provides all three or integrate multiple suppliers.
Read and sign API documentation
After you have selected the supplier you want to work with, you need to sign an API contract with them. As discussed above, a provider can offer multiple APIs for different modules. You will need a detailed contract covering all the modules you will use, with separate APIs as needed. You may also be required to post a bond.
However, if you have a good relationship with your API provider and have provided good volumes, the provider can rent their API for a fee or even make it available to you for free.
After you’ve signed a contract, the supplier will send you and your technology provider API documentation along with test access. The API documentation contains all technical details about the API and its composition, such as the various parameters, rules, and services.
API documentation assessment and development
Once the API documentation is ready, your technology partner will examine the API and the technical feasibility of implementing it in your booking system. This will help them decide if the API is ready to be deployed, if they need to make some changes to the XML connector, or even if they need to create a completely new connector for it.
Each API requires a separate connector and mapping, so if you have multiple APIs, your technology partner will need to create multiple connectors.
Pay attention to certification and integration
When the documentation and connector are ready, you will need to obtain a certificate from the vendor. It usually takes about two weeks to certify existing connections and about a month for new ones.
Upon completion of certification, the supplier will provide you with credentials to access their online channels, which you can use to make bookings.
Don’t forget about post integration
After integration is complete and your site is up and running, your customers / visitors will begin to see data about the modules you’ve integrated in real time. After integrating a travel API, one common issue that travel agencies face is search responsiveness.
Search speed depends on a number of factors, including the architecture of the booking engine, the server’s location, and the number of integrated APIs. But vendor response time is key. Some vendors take longer to respond than others.
Ten to twelve seconds is the average API response time. You should consider speed and price when choosing a supplier, since many well-rated suppliers provide relatively low response times.
What to look for before choosing a service provider for API integration
- Do they provide comprehensive API integration support? Do they have relevant documentation? In many cases, people run into documentation issues and it takes them over seven months to implement the API.
- Do they offer competitive ticket prices? In many cases, a provider can offer you an API at a lower cost than competitors, but the ticket prices will be higher and you will eventually regret your decision.
- Will they give you a ready-made portal or will you have to build it from scratch? If you want a cheaper option, then a ready-made portal is best, but if you do not want to compromise on any part of your idea, you should create it from scratch.
- Do they have a portal/app for B2C, B2B, or B2B2C? This is important to know, as you will face many problems that they may not be aware of.
6 best travel APIs
APIs for booking flights
Skyscanner is a metasearch and travel agency that allows 100 million users a month to research and book travel options including flights, hotels, and car rentals.
There are two versions of the Skyscanner API:
- The Airline Price Review API allows you to extract the cheapest quotes from their cache prices. This means you can set up flexible searches. The downside is that prices for less popular destinations are not updated very often. Therefore, it is possible that your users will not see the updated price when it changes.
- The API for current flight prices shows the exact fares at any time. However, customers must enter the exact time and route for each search. This is convenient if you need to compare prices for specific dates, routes, or both.
The Skyscanner API uses an API key authentication model and is a single-purpose API with a RESTful architecture. To start using the API, you need to fill out the contact form on the Skyscanner website.
Some airlines are looking for new, more efficient ways to market their seats. This is why companies such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and Flydubai have decided to build their New Distribution Capability (NDC) APIs themselves. This makes the booking process on the agent’s side faster and easier and provides more options.
British Airways (BA), the UK’s largest full-service airline, has created an NDC API that allows agents to access flight data and other relevant travel information as well as change booking dates and times. The BA API offers REST for integrating data into third-party applications. It supports the JSON, XML, and Query String / CRUD URI formats. Developers must register on the BA website to access the code.
3. Amadeus APIs
Amadeus is a Spanish IT provider for the global travel and tourism industry. It offers developers several APIs for booking hotels, cars, and flights:
- Amadeus Flight Selection Prediction API predicts flight and shopping options
- Amadeus Flight Low-Fare Search API shows the best flight prices
Amadeus offers a self-service API with free monthly calls. They also provide enterprise APIs for creating virtual credit cards, selling airline tickets with an additional optimization algorithm, sorting and filtering travel recommendations, and many other features. Amadeus APIs work in the REST / JSON and SOAP / XML formats.
APIs for booking hotels
Booking.com is the leading travel agency for short-term hotel reservations. Their API connections were created for property management systems (PMSs) and channel managers. If your site is connected to Booking.com via the API, you can register property and change content like photos, prices, rooms, etc. right on your site’s front end. There is no need to go to Booking.com to update the information manually.
Booking.com APIs offer many features that focus on:
- Content management. Create rooms, prices, and rules, and link this information together for Booking.com.
- Check availability and prices. Download stock quantity, prices, and price availability restrictions.
- Reservations. Get detailed information on reservations, changes, and cancellations on Booking.com.
- Promotions. Create promotions for specific date ranges and customer types.
- Reports. Report credit card issues, vendors when booking after check-in, and more.
Most users look at reviews and photos from other travelers before booking a hotel. TripAdvisor is a great place to read reviews and compare prices and ratings for attractions, restaurants, and hotels. The TripAdvisor Content API allows you to get all of this data:
- Featured, Published Ratings, Awards & Reviews
- Top 10 hotels, restaurants, and attractions by location
- Link “Write a review”
The Tripadvisor Content API is provided for consumer-facing travel websites and apps only. If you have a personal site, you can use your own widgets.
APIs for car rentals
Online car rentals are quite popular. They offer more flexibility in route planning than local transport, and you can avoid purchasing tickets. Not to mention that travel cards and taxis can be quite expensive. As the popularity of car rental services grows, so does the need for useful car rental APIs.
Sabre provides technical solutions for the travel industry, including agencies, corporations, vendors, and developers. The company works with more than 40 car rental brands and have created three rental car APIs for travel sites.
- The Car Accessibility API shows the availability of cars and rental prices. The price depends on the place and date of pick-up. Detailed information is also displayed, such as available cars in the specified location and price by car type and tariff plan (inclusive, corporate, etc.).
- The Car Location API allows users to search for vehicles by type, city, and address. Travelers need to choose a pick-up point, indicate the date and place of return, and choose the car they like.
- The Car Reservation API is for booking one or more cars and adding additional details such as flight arrival date, address, return location, and location code.
Experts say the tourism industry will grow in the coming years. Travel companies are more willing to open their APIs, which allows developers to integrate applications into the infrastructure. As a result, both sides benefit, and customers can book flights, hotel rooms, tours, and travel much faster and more conveniently on universal platforms.
As the world and the travel, and hospitality industries become more and more interconnected, it’s critical to work with the best modern APIs to get the right data and deliver the most value to your customers.
If you want to use travel APIs in your project but don’t know where to start, contact Mobindustry for a free consultation.