Fora’s New Booking Platform: A One-Shop Stop for Seamless Research & Booking
At Fora, when we say we’re “modernizing the way travel advisors plan and book trips,” we mean it. That’s why we’re excited to announce the alpha release of our all-in-one booking platform later this month.
The new platform allows Fora Advisors to browse rates and book hotels across the industry from a single, convenient interface.
“It’s all about the ease of this tooling,” Jake Peters, Fora’s Co-Founder and Chief Product/Technology Officer explained. “We know travel advisors are busy, and our booking platform streamlines their workflow. It negates the need for countless website tabs open, comparing different hotels and partner perks… Fora’s new technology allows advisors to go from research to booking with just a few clicks.”
The problems with making online bookings today
We’re probably preaching to the choir, but travel planning is an unbelievably fun career path (whether it’s a side hustle or full-time gig). That doesn’t mean that it’s not without its flaws. As with any global field, there are hiccups to overcome — some of which can add a considerable amount of time to your daily workload planning trips.
More specifically, we’re talking about the process of making bookings for clients.
Dozens of hotel brands means dozens of booking platforms…
Well-established brands like Hilton, Hyatt and Four Seasons all have great online booking platforms that travel advisors can take advantage of. But that generally means you have to make accounts with each.
Moreover, if you’re with a host agency that is a preferred partner (like Fora is with these partners), you’ll have separate booking instructions for each partner and how to get perks for your client.
If you’re regularly booking travel, you could easily end up with dozens of separate accounts, which isn’t exactly fun or easy to organize. And comparing rates between 20 different tabs anytime you research hotels for a client can be a headache.
It also means that if you know that a hotel is part of a network like Virtuoso, but also might have perks from another program, you have to cross-check each website to ensure that you are getting the best perks for your client (and the best commission for yourself).
For example, the Kimpton St. Honoré, Paris is part of Virtuoso’s network and it’s also part of IHG’s Luxury Program. As an advisor, this means that you have to know that the Kimpton St. Honoré is part of both programs (likely having to cross-check on each site) and then compare/contrast to see which one is best.
It takes time to do this, and we all know the age old saying that time is money.
…and some of these platforms are pretty old
Moreover, some brands’ online booking platforms haven’t been seriously updated since the dawn of the internet (okay okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but tell us you haven’t had issues booking with X hotel brand because their website had a really confusing user interface).
Plus, the process is totally piecemealed
Once you have researched all of the bookings you want to make and you’ve confirmed them with your client, you’re all set to move into the actual booking process. This means that you’ll have to get your client’s credit card information, make that booking and then forward all of the information — and there’s all the extra tabs and time that goes into this process as well.
Wait, can’t travel advisors just book by phone?
Sure! But if you’ve been in this industry long enough, you know how important it is to have everything in writing (e.g., to ensure clients receive hotel perks, special accommodations are made, etc.).
Calling a new reservation desk for every client takes up a lot of time — and it’s an all-new problem if you’re booking travel outside of your time zone (think booking a hotel in Europe from California).
So what’s Fora’s solution?
What if, instead of keeping up with a dozen-plus booking accounts, you could go through a single platform for most of your reservations? And you could do this on your phone, from anywhere you have service or wifi?
That’s exactly what our new booking platform allows: Fora Advisors can browse, quote and book reservations at hotels, including Fora’s preferred partner hotels with perks — at 4k+ hotels and counting — through a single, easy-to-use interface.
And there’s more.
Fora’s in-house booking platform is a one-stop shop to browse, quote & book hotels
Making online bookings easier isn’t the only benefit for travel advisors.
Fora’s booking platform provides detailed hotel info and displays all the different partner programs that a hotel belongs to, allowing advisors to conveniently compare rates, perks and more without having to log into multiple systems. Better yet: the system is connected to Travelport (a GDS system) so that it displays real-time availability, so you know exactly which types of rooms are available to your clients.
Plus, you’ll be able to see which hotels and resorts are popular with your fellow Fora Advisors, including how many times advisors have booked a certain property.
Finally (for now), advisors will be able to share quotes with ease.
All in all, the platform takes the mystery out of the search and discovery process.
The booking process itself is super straightforward…
Once you’re ready to book, you’ll first collect your client’s credit card information through the Vault, Fora’s secure, in-house payment storage system, which is as easy as sending a link to your client via text, email or whatever method works best.
If you’ve already collected their payment information, then it’s already stored with their profile and you just select the client name at checkout.
…with a user interface designed from the ground up to be user-friendly
After you’ve collected payment info, the system works very much like existing booking platforms (plus you can see rates, perks and commission amounts offered through a variety of partner programs). Whether you’re an industry veteran with decades of experience or a travel planning rookie, the new system is as user-friendly as can be.
For those looking for more instruction, Fora’s conducting a special training session on the booking platform and regularly hosting training programs throughout the rest of 2023 and beyond. Supporting our advisors is something we take very seriously (just check out our approach to travel agent training and travel agent certification).
Confirmations are a breeze
Once a selection has been confirmed, Fora’s booking platform allows users to download a PDF that contains all the information regarding the booking — except your commission (so it’s client-friendly).
In addition, Fora’s booking platform has automated email reminders to help you stay on your travel advisor A game. A few days before your client’s trip, you’ll get a reminder so you can take the next steps to VIP their experience with the hotel’s team and make sure your client has all the info they need to enjoy their stay.
All of this, of course, is meant to help you on your way to becoming a successful travel advisor.
A dedicated product & engineering team keeps things running smoothly with feedback from our community
Building and launching our booking platform isn’t a one-and-done event. We have a dedicated team tackling bugs, improvements and new features. But we’re not building this platform in a vacuum. Creating a super-convenient booking system is kind of pointless without tapping into the community it’s meant for — Fora Advisors play a critical role in the development of everything we do at Fora, including our booking platform.
Our engineering team is constantly incorporating new feedback into all our systems to ensure our travel advisors are getting the best experience possible. It’s part of what makes us a modern travel agency (want to see what it’s all about? Join Fora).
It’s only getting better from here
Later this year, Fora Advisors will be able to book over 100,000 hotels available through existing GDS (global distribution systems). But we’re not stopping at hotels. In the future, Fora Advisors will be able to book cruises, rental cars, travel insurance and more on the booking platform (BTW: learn more about how to become a cruise travel agent).
Best of all: Fora’s booking platform is just one part of an all-in-one platform to streamline travel bookings
Ultimately, Fora’s booking platform is only one piece in an ever-evolving toolkit meant to streamline everything from research to collecting payments. This all-in-one platform — Portal — can be used anywhere, and is both mobile- and desktop-friendly.
When will Fora’s booking platform be ready for all advisors?
September 26! Select Fora Advisors have been testing out the platform since the start of Virtuoso Travel Week, and we’ve been hard at work incorporating their — and industry partners’ — feedback.
Learn more about Fora’s Integrated Booking Platform.
Ready to make your life as a travel advisor easier? Become a Fora Advisor today.