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Why We Built Impala's Self-Serve Hotel Booking Platform that Cuts Out the Middlemen

Charles Cowley's pictureCharles Cowley
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  • Impala’s self-serve platform allows any business to offer hotel room bookings in hours, rather than months, from a rapidly growing number of hotels in 28 countries
  • With Impala, businesses no longer need to send customers to external sites; instead they get visibility and control over their customer's data and booking patterns
  • These businesses – which can range from travel agencies to event organisers, fintech platforms and beyond – also take a much larger share of commission
  • Impala removes the need for negotiating lengthy agreements with hundreds of individual hotels, and channel managers, and the need to build multiple integrations for fragmented legacy systems
  • By joining Impala, businesses are automatically plugged into a network of partner hotels and customers can check availability and make bookings all in one place
  • Impala’s API democratises travel by allowing both new and existing businesses to embed hotel bookings into any product

Impala – the travel platform democratising the hospitality industry with its real-time hotel API – has launched a self-serve version of its game changing, universal platform.

Within minutes, and without ever having to chat to a sales person, enter a lengthy onboarding process, or manage hundreds of integrations, any business can start facilitating hotel bookings. Impala’s two easy-to-use API requests can be integrated into existing websites or apps. Once integrated, these businesses are automatically plugged into Impala’s global network of partner hotels, including NH Hotels, Iberostar and Starhotels properties, and this enables them to show availability, prices, upgrade options and more, all in real-time.

The platform also means businesses no longer need to send customers to external sites once the client is ready to book. Instead, they get visibility and control over their customer's data and booking patterns, keeping the customer engaged with their own brand and creating a stronger working relationship with hotels. All while minimising friction, reducing the chances of customers abandoning the booking funnel, and improving conversion rates.

These businesses – which can range from travel agencies to event organisers, fintech platforms and beyond – then take a much larger share of commission. They no longer need to negotiate agreements with individual hotels, or build numerous integrations to work with channel managers or legacy property management systems.

Impala’s industry-changing API

Impala launched in 2019 with a mission to standardise the way hotel bookings are made by building a modern, easy-to-use, open API that integrates with legacy hotel systems.

Hotels use Property Management Systems (PMS) to manage availability, room types, pricing, extras, taxes and so on. There isn’t a standard system used by all hotels, meaning that developers working on products in the hotel industry currently have to build individual integrations for each of these systems individually. Or build integrations for 200+ Channel Managers that sit between hotels and online booking sites.

Impala’s software is unique because, with just a few lines of code and an open API, developers can work with hotels without having to worry about their specific PMS or channel manager. This has proved popular among companies selling tech to hotels, including (but not limited to) those which make door locks, in-room TVs, check-in and guest survey tools and so on.

With this latest product launch, Impala is giving the same worry-free approach and access to a much wider audience of anyone who wants to sell hotel rooms.

“Since we first launched our hotel data API, enabling that same degree of innovation to any and all businesses who want to build better hotel booking, or stay experiences, has been a long-term goal for the company. Achieving this milestone today is hugely significant,” said Ben Stephenson, Impala’s CEO and founder. “It’s significant for us as a business, but even more so for the merchants we’ve specifically built this platform for. Merchants looking to get started in this industry, existing online travel agents looking to grow, or travel businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic that are looking for ways to streamline workflows, move away from having to manually update spreadsheets, send emails and make phone calls, and diversify and increase revenue streams. In summary, our API saves time, saves money and saves hassle.”

Of all the industries affected by the pandemic, the hotel industry is one of the worst-hit thanks to travel restrictions and lockdown measures. In London, daily room revenues dropped from an average of £129 in 2019 to £29 in 2020, the lowest figures since records began in the 1970s. Forecasts from PwC say the industry won’t recover until 2024 at the latest, whilst in the US it’s predicted the hotel industry will start to rebound fully in 2023. Yet, as global testing and vaccine programmes ramp up, there is pent-up demand for travel from people who have been confined to their homes for months. Solutions like Impala's platform can help travel agents and hotels serve this heightened demand for travel in 2021 and beyond.

Travel agents and beyond

Businesses selling hotels today fall into two categories. The first are online travel agencies (OTAs) and other companies that don't offer hotels as their core product. Instead, they direct customers looking to book accommodation to major hotel sites. They have an affiliate partnership with these global giants, who are effectively a competitor, and take a small commission share of what these middlemen make.

For the companies, they don’t know who, of the customers they’ve directed to these sites, end up booking rooms or what their booking patterns are. For customers, this creates a poor experience because they have to enter details and data again, which causes friction. And for hotels, every booking looks like it came through the global giants. This deprives OTAs and hotels from having a direct relationship in which they know who sold their rooms.

The second category is OTAs that offer accommodation directly. This allows them to take a greater share of the commission and not be bound by the restrictions and fees offered by the dominating industry players. However, this requires individual hotels to manually manage their rates and availability on these OTAs respective platforms or build and maintain integrations with 200+ channel managers and Global Distribution Systems. This can prove costly, in terms of money and time, and increases the risk of overbookings.

Impala addresses these industry flaws, and solves the problems with fragmented PMS and channel managers in one fell swoop with its easy-to-use open API. Instead of having to integrate and maintain these integrations with 200+ channel managers used by hotels – which is tricky to manage even for major OTAs, let alone startups or similar – businesses can work with any hotel immediately, via Impala's universal platform. This not only lowers the barrier to entry for new travel booking sites and agencies. It opens up the possibility for any business to start selling hotel bookings – from a fintech platform wanting to embed commerce options in its apps and services, to a tourism website; a conference or event hub; a music festival app, and many others.

  • Impala works with every hotel, irrespective of their channel manager or PMS, and allows OTAs to sell up to the last available room
  • Impala is completely white-label, meaning OTAs as well as any other businesses keep a direct relationship with hotels, while embedding bookings deeply in their flows
  • Impala is an infrastructure layer, and therefore doesn't compete with OTAs for repeat bookings the way major hotel booking sites' affiliate programmes do
  • Impala sell up to the last available room of every category on the best dynamic rates, without forcing hotels to accept static allocations
  • Hotels know bookings come from an OTA on Impala’s platform, allowing them to build a relationship with the hotels they send most bookings to
  • This then provides more effective access to more channels through which hotels can sell
  • Impala takes care of the hard stuff for OTAs and other businesses so they can sell the best possible room booking experience

An early adopter of the latest API was Sidehide – the Berlin-based mobile hotel booking platform that launched at the start of 2020. Sidehide’s mission is to make booking hotel rooms as easy and intuitive as booking an Uber, or ordering on Deliveroo – with just one tap. The app is built entirely around Impala’s platform, without which the startup would have had to rely on negotiations with the big players, and would have had to build integrations for multiple systems. Two costly and time-consuming hoops to jump through before it could even launch.

“Despite the ongoing pandemic, the travel and hospitality industries are hugely exciting sectors to build a company in, with vast potential for growth,”

explained Joakim Hultin, co-founder and CEO of Sidehide.

“Yet they’re so largely dominated by a select few players, and are so fragmented because of the reliance on legacy systems, that it can take the fun, excitement and potential out of it. Almost to the point where many founders, or companies looking to enter this space, will be put off. Impala brings back the excitement and potential. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for startups like ours and better access to choice and technology benefits everyone.”

Two simple API requests to search and book hotels

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