As every property owner and operator knows, it can be a pain allocating a portion of your accommodation to a holiday letting agency 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 agent was unable to fill.

With 40 years’ experience in the leisure industry, Michael Paul, founder and executive director of Michael Paul Holidays, was quick to identify the fundamental flaw in this system which is of course, that the moment you delegate property to a third party, you lose control. Therefore, if your agent underperforms, then your business underperforms. Park operators are all too aware of this and are, quite understandably, reluctant to handover booking responsibilities to agencies who might let them down.

When Michael set up his own holiday letting agency in 2008, he knew there had to be a better way. He began by launching a traditional holiday website which worked on a request basis. Guests sent holiday requests though contact forms to the company and the company manually checked details with the accommodation owner, by phoning or using their website and relayed the information to the guest.

However, this was by no means an ideal solution. Although this method didn’t rely on allocation, it proved to be very labour intensive. The journey between enquiry and point of sale was slow and clunky and often relied upon the property operator being involved. The offline booking ‘solution’ just wasn’t working for us or our clients. Therefore, Michael decided to continue operating on a small scale until a practical and scalable solution could be found.

Michael always knew that the end goal was to provide live availability to guests on the website and provide a fast and easy booking funnel for website visitors to use, the question was how. It was obvious that the solution lay in technology, the challenge was identifying the technology and implementing it.

Michael began by looking at the hotel industry. Hotels were quick to identify the need to pass price and availability information to large channels such as booking.com and swift to invest in Application Program Interface technology or in other words, APIs. The obvious market for API tech in the hotel sector sparked the foundation of many companies who rushed to fill the demand.

When Michael first learnt of these booking channels and their services it seemed as if we had found a solution. We contacted these companies to discuss using their services and signed up to a couple on a trial basis. However, it soon became clear that this wasn’t the answer. While we could see that these systems were brilliant for hotel owners, they weren’t suited to self-catering and certainly not for agencies. We found ourselves on the advice of the booking channel providers, using ‘workarounds’ which meant extra work on our end inputting information for solutions which were by no means adequate.

After this experience, we realised that what we were searching for didn’t exist. If we wanted to be able to connect with other property providers in the self-catering industry we’d have to develop our own innovative system in house which is exactly what we’ve done.

Our website now uses APIs to ‘talk’ to our clients’ booking systems and pull price and availability information. When a visitor on our site searches for a holiday we return live data to them. This is particularly useful for our clients who use dynamic pricing. When a guest books on our site, this booking is automatically placed in the property owner’s booking system and vice versa. This seamless way of working is what sets us apart from our competitors and makes us stand out as an agency. As both parties have access to all the availability as all times we can work in tandem with our clients with no more wasted booking enquiries. We connect to large booking platforms like ParcVu and Supercontrol which means that the majority of our potential clients already have the capacity to connect to us.

So, what can you learn from our journey?

The biggest lesson we learned was that no third party is prepared to cater to your businesses interests quite like your own. Even if our ‘out of the box’ solution had been suitable for us to use as an agency, the lack of control and power to make things happen would have damaged us in the long term. Just as losing control of property through allocation is important to property operators, losing control of our integrations is too important to leave with a third party.

We also learned that if there is nobody out there providing the service you need, then don’t keep pushing against brick walls: create your own solution and move your business forward. If this involves stepping into unchartered technology, then embrace it. If you don’t, then a competitor will.

For more information head over to michaelpaulholidays.co.uk

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