Not being actors or musicians, attending an award ceremony was a new experience for us. Even if you don't expect to win (which we certainly didn't), there's still this tension you can't quite shake, a nervousness that only gets worse the longer you have to wait. The only thing you can do is distract yourself with something else. Staring at the clock and watching the minutes tick slowly by is an option but not a particularly appealing one, which is where food comes in handy. With a bowl of nachos and a plate of other delicacies we joined our fellow developers in the waiting game. And thankfully, our patience paid off.
No medals or gold statues, but we were awarded shiny new Apple Watches. Exactly the sort of prize to make a couple of techies happy.
So what did we actually make that got us to first place?
As channel managers, we are usually concerned with helping hoteliers with an efficient system so that they can spend more time and effort on their guests. That's why our purpose is "helping you realize the ultimate guest experience". But the ultimate guest experience can take many forms, and we thought it would be interesting to approach an issue from the perspective of a guest instead.
One of the core functionalities that sets Expedia apart from other booking sites is the possibility to book not just a hotel, but also a ticket, rent a car and buy tickets for activities. But what we felt was missing was the option to combine activities with a hotel stay, and to book a multi-leg trip in one step.
You start by entering the number of people going on the trip, the dates you would like to depart and return, and where you'll be flying from. The next step is selecting the locations you would like to visit. As the purpose of the application is to book a multi-leg trip, you can add one or more locations to your trip and indicate how long you'd like to spend in each location.
The next step is selecting activities. By using Expedia's API, it is possible to retrieve a list of possible activities to do for each selected location. These can then be filtered by category to make it easier for guests to find what they're looking for. A guest can then select the activities they'd like to book for each location.
The real magic happens when you click on "show my trip". The application takes all the information entered by the guests and creates a couple of complete trip packages that the guest can choose from. These include hotel stays at the selected locations, flights from one location to the other, and tickets for the selected activities. But how do we create these packages and decide what to put in them?
The first thing we looked at was distance. It seemed logical to us to look for hotels within the vicinity of the activities the guest is interested in. This makes it more convenient for the guest, and ultimately may lower the total cost of the trip by reducing additional costs incurred by taking public transport or taking a car. So we developed an algorithm to find hotels within optimal distance of all the activities selected by the user. But options are always important, so this wasn't enough.
We ended up with three packages. The first package is the recommended package, which makes suggestions based on price, the review rating of the hotel and the previously mentioned distance. The second is the cheapest package, which finds the cheapest hotel within the vicinity of the activities without taking the rating of the hotel into consideration. Finally you have the best rated package, which ignores the price of the hotel and only looks at the reviews and the star rating.
This is only a prototype of course, and doesn't include everything we would've liked to put in there. Ideally, the packages themselves would be completely customizable, so guests can actually choose a different hotel or flight if the one listed isn't to their liking. Car rentals weren't included either, and there are plenty of other ideas to make the booking experience even more convenient for the guest. But we did feel we managed to get the core of our idea out there, and winning first place is a clear indication to us that there are a lot of others who feel the same as we do.
Now we just have to come up with an even better idea to defend our title next year.