8 Types of Travel APIs—GDS, Flights, Hotels, Car Rental
Travel services such as hotels, flights and car rentals have become a global commodity. Data is readily available about travel options anywhere on the globe, and you can automate just about any travel transaction with a few lines of code. However, to take advantage of this rich ecosystem, you need to know the key technology providers, and connect your software to their APIs.
Integrating with an API is a non-trivial development task, and so it’s important to understand the options and select the right APIs that will help you get the job done. Whether you’re doing something small like incorporating a navigation widget into your mobile app, or building an enterprise-scale online travel operation, this post will get you started by explaining the main types of travel APIs and, in each category, reviewing the options offered by the key players.
We will cover these 4 types of travel APIs:
- Global Distribution Systems—all-in-one data and reservation services that cover hotels, flights, ground transport and trip management
- Flight Booking APIs—providers focused on flight data and reservations, which can offer more granular data and competitive rates
- Hotel Room Reservations—providers offering a large inventory of hotel rooms around the world
- Car APIs—providing access to car rental inventories in thousands of locations around the world
What Is a Travel API and Why Should You Use One?
A travel API can help organizations connect a web or mobile application to data sources which can be of assistance to travellers, such as flight information, hotel booking information, transport options and traffic conditions, and also create or modify orders and manage payments, by interfacing with providers of hospitality or transportation services.
Travel APIs can be used to make the consumption and provisioning of travel services more efficient:
- Efficient travel consumption—Travel Management Companies (TMCs) and large enterprises can use travel APIs to connect their IT systems directly to travel providers. This lets them reduce operational costs for corporate travel, by automating booking and optimizing travel plans.
- Efficient travel provisioning—Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), or any application that helps travellers plan a trip or purchase travel services, can use travel APIs to provide richer and more intelligent services to their users. For example, a hotel bookings site can enrich its services by providing data on flight and ground transport, via additional travel APIs.
Travel API Type #1: Global Distribution System (GDS) APIs
A Global Distribution System (GDS) is an aggregator of travel data which serves Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and booking websites. It provides data and enables reservations of airline seats, car rental companies, hotels, cruise lines, ferries, railways, ground transport and more. This enables resellers of travel services to connect to one API, instead of having to interface with each individual service provider.
Three GDS providers, Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, control almost 100% of the market. Their APIs are detailed below.
|GDS API||What it Offers|
|Amadeus API||ata and reservations for airlines, railroads, hotels, car rentals, airport private shuttles or taxi transfers, cruises, travel insurance.|
|Sabre API||Data and reservations for airlines, car rentals and railway, cruises, hotels, as well as management of traveller profiles and end-to-end trips.|
|Travelport API||Offers data from three different GDS systems—Apollo, Worldspan and Galileo. Provides an Air API, Rail API, rooms reservations, and a fares and ancillaries module.|
Travel API Type #2: Flight Booking API
While GDS can provide flight information, specialized flight booking APIs can provide more granular control over flight booking details, allowing travel agencies to customize reservations and obtain reduced rates. Two primary APIs are the Skyscanner API and the Flightstats API.
|Flight Booking API||What it Offers|
Searching flight prices for a variety of destinations and time ranges (based on cached data which may be slightly out of date), and querying real-time price data for precise flight queries.
Rates are based on an affiliate agreement—you must be vetted and approved to receive access to the API.
|Flightstats API||Current and historical flight status, schedules and connections, aircraft details, schedules, delays and standard performance ratings for flights, weather information, and real-time data on flight disruptions.|
Travel API Type #3: Hotel Rooms Reservations
There are several large providers of hotel room inventories. Expedia and Booking.com are the largest, but additional providers offer inventories in specific locations or niches. By connecting to their APIs, you can get room information, booking information, and also handle reservations and cancellations across their inventories.
|Hotel Reservation API||What it Offers||Inventory and Access|
|Expedia||Booking availability, retrieval and notifications, hotel lists, itineraries, reservation management, room images and hotel info, payment types, natural language hotel search, travel deals, and a deals engine called Unreal Deals.||Inventory from Expedia’s network of Online Travel Agencies, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Trivago. Not all APIs are publicly available—some require joining Expedia’s partner programs.|
|Booking.com||Similar functionality to Expedia’s API.||Inventory from Booking.com’s network of Online Travel Agencies including Booking.com, Kayak, and Momondo. Booking.com’s APIs are closed to the general public and require entering a partnership program.|
|Hotelbeds Group API||Hotel Content API, providing hotel descriptions, pictures, and other metadata; Hotel Bookings API, allowing management of reservations and cancellations; and a Cache API, allowing massive data querying for construction of travel packages.||Based on Hotelbeds’ inventory of 75,000 hotels in 185 countries.|
|HomeAway API||Like Airbnb, provides access to homeowners who rent their properties to travellers. Enables searching homes, retrieving home listings, direct communication between travellers and homeowners, and submission of reviews.||Inventory of 2 million homes worldwide offered to travellers.|
Travel API Type #4: Car APIs
Multiple providers focus on car rental in their APIs, allowing you to leverage inventory from their own fleets or big car rental brands. Most car APIs allow you to build packages that include car rental, flights and hotels.
|Car Rental API||What it Offers|
|Rentalcars.com||By becoming a RentalCars Connect partner, you gain access to an API that offers car rentals in 28,000 pick up locations across 180 countries, from well known providers like Avis and Hertz. Supporting 40 languages and 80 currencies.|
|CarTrawler||An API offering car rental integrated with flight and retail travel products, with real time rates and dynamic packaging.|
|TraveloPro||Like CarTrawler, a Car API integrated with hotel and flight bookings. Provides access to a fleet of vehicles from economy to luxury in 2500 locations across 100 countries, with real-time streaming of prices, best rate guaranteed, multi language support.|
In the online travel ecosystem, consumers expect a broad variety of options, fully tailored packages and rich data about services offered. The only way to stay competitive is to incorporate data and automate searches and reservations via travel APIs.
In this article we covered 4 key types of travel APIs—Global Distribution Systems, flight bookings, hotel reservations and Car APIs. Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we’ll discuss mapping APIs, travel management systems, APIs that provide reviews and social proof, and public transportation APIs.