Halifax travel-planning software company Trip Ninja has pivoted to focus on brick-and-mortar travel agents and finished a major redesign of its platform.
Trip Ninja was originally conceived as a way for consumers using travel-booking websites like Britain’s Globehunters.com to find the cheapest routes for multi-city trips. The revised software, now dubbed QuickTrip, offers travel agents a more feature-rich version of the same service.
CEO Andres Collart said in an interview that the shift will allow Trip Ninja to scale faster. Integrating its software into online travel-booking services was a complex, multi-week process; the version built for travel agents requires less integration and can be fully functional in just days.
“This is a massive market,” said Collart. “And it’s not a market that’s well-served by a technology company...There’s more of a pain there.”
The pivot to legacy travel agents began early this year, and QuickTrip rolled out in September.
The old version of Trip Ninja showed users only the cheapest route combinations. For example, if buying two one-way tickets was less expensive than a single, two-way ticket, users would see only one-way choices.
QuickTrip shows travel agents an unlimited number of customizable options, allowing travellers to incorporate factors other than cost into their decision process.
“What we’re doing here is distilling all those time-consuming processes, and now [travel agents] do it with one search on our technology,” he said. “With that, even a very junior agent can develop high-quality itineraries like a senior travel agent that’s been there for ten-plus years.”
A 2018 survey from industry group the International Air Transport Association found that about 43 percent of travellers worldwide preferred to book their flights through traditional travel agents. Air travel was a US$798.2 billion industry that year, 43 percent of which was about $343.2 billion.
Adding to the appeal of legacy travel agents for Trip Ninja is a simpler sales process. Integration with online platforms required the approval of software developers, which could take months. QuickTrip runs as a separate program on travel agents’ computers and doesn’t require the involvement of their development teams.
Travel websites that have already signed on with Trip Ninja also have access to QuickTrip’s expanded feature set, but the segment is no longer a major part of Trip Ninja’s business development strategy.
Collart added that Trip Ninja has not been immune to COVID-19’s punishing impact on the travel sector. But he believes this year’s pivot has made the company well-positioned to capitalize on an eventual recovery.
As travel begins to ramp up again, industry players grappling with the pandemic’s economic fallout will be keen to “do more with less,” possibly making QuickTrip’s labour-saving aspects more appealing to travel agents.
And with COVID-19 making trips riskier and more prone to interruptions, a survey by industry publication Travelweek found that more than 57 percent of Canadians say they’re likely to use a travel agent for future bookings, for better customer support.
Trip Ninja does not plan to raise capital in 2020, but Collart said his team is eyeing a possible funding round early next year.
The company has eight employees distributed across Canada. QuickTrip is so-far available in English, Spanish, French and Japanese.