On Starting A Travel Booking Platform

Published: April 30th, 2021
Qasim Hussain
from Lahore, Pakistan
started May 2014
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My Name is Qasim and I’m the CEO & Founder of PHPTRAVELS. We help travel agencies to operate online using our platforms for web desktop and mobile apps. We offer 100% open-source code so anyone of our clients can buy our product and install it on their website and within a matter of a few minutes they can build their online travel booking services website to sell hotels flights tours cars and rentals connected to worldwide travel suppliers such as Booking.com, Expedia, Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport and more.

We started back in 2014. It was a long journey but today we have over 4,000 websites empowered with our platform and growing our client base.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

By profession, I’m a front-end developer. From 2012 to 2014 I worked as a freelancer on different platforms such as Fiverr and freelancer.com. In the year 2014 80% of the projects I was awarded were about the travel industry such as websites for hotel room reservations, flight booking or tour packages offer, and so on.

Even if your idea did not work your skills will help you to succeed with the next startup so never compromise when it comes to tech.

Researching on Google one day I found only a few companies were working specifically in the travel tech industry. Those days I was planning to have an office and build a company but for that, I needed to identify what services to offer first.

At the time I was also reading motivational stories and I started following all the gurus, mentors, and world-leading tech companies’ CEOs. I remember spending one night watching videos of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, and I was not able to move from my sofa to my bed. The entire night I kept watching his speeches and stories. In the morning my wife came to me and she said: “what are you doing, have you done your work?” I just realized I was so into Jack Ma’s videos I even forgot to work from my desk. Those speeches on millionaires made me rethink what I’m doing and what should I do. I was also very much inspired by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

The theory of making software as OS Operating System and then selling it to market as you only need to build the software once just. And I was a freelancer who has to work from scratch for every new client and it's very hard to satisfy your clients in such marketplaces. So the idea of building software came from gates and jobs and inspiration of jack ma but still I needed the idea and then the industry to follow-up so I kept my research and found travel is my passion and when we talk about technology those days PHP programming language was one of best to code and build your platforms with. So I decided on the name of the product within few minutes and that's how PHPTRAVELS came into existence. PHP stands for the programming language and TRAVELS is the travel industry. I hired some developers and kept working for 9 months and after all these struggle when we released our first version we got all our expenses back in just 15 days and then I left working as a freelancer and started working full time for my company for little more images gallery and companies timeline please do visit on this page.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Before investing huge money I wanted to make sure this idea works perfectly for me so I did. I purchased a domain phptravels.com and made a website with few pages
Then I added some images of other software removed their brand name similar to the travel website with PHPTRAVELS name to make sure that we offer this software and I started the marketing using google ads and Facebook boating.

made few days and collect payments from our clients without having any software it was within just a few days but yes all payments went back because I kept saying to our clients we are working on a product to release a new version soon but there was no product and all the money went back. But I got the confidence that if I build this software we can win the market. I made sales without having any software but what if we made real software we could beat the market and that's when I became more serious about the idea.

Here is the website link of early website back in 2014 from achieve.org.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I was working as freelancing in night shift and in the day I use to work with my developers for our product based on daily research on our competitors and their bad reviews of clients. We added everything in our product what our competitor was missing their product. And because they could not change the entire structure of the product nor they could change the technology to offer open-source code products. It was hard for us but a great opportunity that we could add anything we like to have in our software.

I funded all my projects cost from my freelancing career especially from fiverr.com I use to design logos and websites UI on Fiverr and all my finances I invest end of the month on my project PHP TRAVELS because I had believed there is no option to lose this business as our MVP was remarkable with its results.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

After launching the product it was our aim to feature and collaborate with different travel suppliers so we kept contacting them taking them onboard below is the link of of our official partners:

  1. ivisa

  2. Partnered with Hotelston

  3. Affiliate Program

  4. Partners

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Our all pages are optimized and ranked on the top page of google and our graph of search and unique visitors are getting good growth day by day below is the search console screenshot.


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When I started I was only a front-end web developer but slowly and gradually I learned a lot of skills, tools, and things which I never imagined before such as. Backend programming, database designing, code optimization, and security layers for programming languages.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

The technology stack we use is PHP MYSQL HTML CSS JS.

The IDE we use in house to edit our codes are sublime phpstorm rapid PHP 2020.

For email and marketing, we use sendinblue.

For media and banners graphics we use canva.

For backlinks we use ahrefs.

For SEO we normally follow all google's latest guide about their updates.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I never read any book or follow any podcast I watch videos on youtube or read some tech blogs related to the travel tech industry. But I’m inspired by all giant tech CEOs I use to follow them on all social media channels and that's my inspiration.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I highly recommend to any startup that they must be familiar with the latest technology that's the most important thing when you start your idea can be awesome but someone can you beat you easily with the same idea but better technology so focuses on your tech team or tech skills. Even if your idea did not work your skills will help you to succeed with the next startup so never compromise when it comes to tech.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes, we are looking for a senior PHP Programmer.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Qasim Hussain, Founder of PHPTRAVELS
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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