EyeforTravel SpecialTravel technology companies have been focusing on solutions for travel agents, offering them intuitive user interface, access to inventory from specialist suppliers and gaining better margins.

Published: 19 May 2008

EyeforTravel Special

Travel technology companies have been focusing on solutions for travel agents, offering them intuitive user interface, access to inventory from specialist suppliers and gaining better margins.

In a market like India, where travel agents are witnessing a slew of changes due to online travel distribution, companies like Wizie are offering booking engines, which bring only available discounted and published fares from the GDS. The booking engine can connect multiple consolidators as well. This way, the agents' customers would get the best fares and also when a booking is made the PNR automatically falls into the respective consolidators "Q" for the issuing/fulfillment.

Assessing the situation in India, Wizie.com LLC's marketing manager Vikas Kannan said: "Travel Agents in India have multiple options from multiple sources. GDS are providing e-commerce platform, through which travel consolidators/wholesalers and travel agents can have websites with booking engine, but in this case they are restricted only to themselves. These solutions are not affordable by small and medium travel agents and only big players and afford them. Secondly companies like Via, Desiya and other OTAs are also providing various affiliate models and white label solution, but here the agents loose their identity, as the company which provides the booking engine, would be issuing the tickets. The travel agents don't get full commissions; they get roughly about 3% - 5%. They would not get the segment credits, PLB's etc. Also they won't have their own identity, as everything would be fulfilled by the OTA's."

He added, "We have the latest and robust technology which is available readily and also the agents get the maximum benefit. They also can get an online booking enigne and continue to earn every penny what ever they earn out a ticket today."

Wizie's Perfect IBE offers fully customisable booking engine which can be integrated into a website. According to Kannan, his company is a pioneer in offering a fully customised state of the art Internet Booking Engine.

"We launched in North America in April 2006 and were the first company to offer a booking engine that showed available, discounted and published fares In India, we launched in August 2007 with the first ever booking engine platform, available to the travel agent community. Since last eight months we have 200+ websites using our booking engine and 15,000+ agents using our platform in India. Both in India and North America the agents using our technology are also benefiting a lot, as they are getting online business, which they never imagined, they would get," he said.

Kannan provided an insight into relationship with agents when it comes to Perfect IBE and much more.

Excerpts:

Ritesh Gupta: In case of Perfect IBE, what sort of relationship do you have with agents – is it SaaS or licensing? Also, do you think agents in India have become technology friendly especially in the wake of increasing competition from online b2c players?

Wizie: As far as PerfectIBE is concerned, we have very simple models depending on the modules (B2C, B2B, B2B2C & B2E) the consolidators/agents want. We charge a nominal one-time cost depending on the level of customisation of the agent and a nominal recurring charge, towards updation, maintainance and in some cases towards the hit to book ratio. This model of ours has brought great success to us. We don't want to charge huge upfront, as in this competitive industry, our partners cannot afford this price tag, and we are sure with the recurring cost, they would not mind paying, as they make money, when they make a sale.

Apart form PerfectIBE, we have a product called Travel Agent Mall, which is the only Travel Mall, where consolidators from all part of the world can give access to their net fares and any registered travel agents from any where in the world can access and book these fares. For e.g. an agent in India can register in TAM and book net fares originating US, in USD and pay in INR. This product has got huge success. We launched this on 9th February 2008 and within 2 months we have 10,000+ agents using this portal. Today this transacts at least 100 tickets every week. Here two unique features which this portal offers and no other company offers are:

· This shows only Net Net rates i.e. they are the best rate/fare offered by the suppliers. The agent can book tickets from TAM and charge their customer with their own mark up. Also they can book tickets and pay only when they get the tickets issued. They are given 24 hours to put the PNR on hold before issuing (depending on the airlines and type of fare). So they have the freedom to book tickets originating any country in that local currency at the cheapest cost.

· Secondly the next best feature is that every registered agent gets a B2C booking engine on their website, completely free. This website would show full fare and also gives the customer to pay through credit card and the best part is, once the ticket is issued, the agent would get the complete commission and PLB back by the end of the month.

So they have the freedom to book tickets by logging into TAM, or can direct the customer to book on the agents' website and still earn every penny he was supposed to earn. Also they satisfy the customer by giving them available flights, best fares and best customer service (by offering them just three step booking click, select and fly).

As far as awareness of technology is concerned, Indian Agents are never behind. GDS themselves are offering all these technologies to Big Consolidators and also the OTA's, but there are hardly few companies which are offering these technologies to the agents at the most affordable cost. We are giving more options to customers and agents for bookings. Even after all these OTA's have entered into the market, still Traditional Travel Agents are doing 77% of the travel business with their old traditional model. All we are doing is trying to power all these traditional travel agents with the booking engine technology, so that they can also be equally competitive to the OTA's and try to satisfy and fulfill their niche customers.

Ritesh Gupta: What is Wizie's Fare Comparison Tool all about? How is different from similar offerings in the marketplace?

Wizie: Wizie's Fare Comparison Tool is a new search tool that allows Airlines / Portals to make comparisons between city pairs on a particular day, at a glance. This program can be run on scheduled basis and the results help the airlines and OTA's in forecasting and planning their business model and be competitive in the market. This product is already being used by couple of airlines and consolidators and they are getting huge benefit, as this helps them plan out their pricing and respective strategy. Also they are able to plan promotions to the respective markets on a timely fashion.

Ritesh Gupta: Lots of online travel agencies in India have overhauled their UI, booking engines and mid/ back-office operations. Plus, couples of them have gone for in-house development of technology operations. How do you assess these developments especially from Wizie's perspective?

Wizie: Yes, lot of companies has overhauled their UI and many of them are doing in house development too, but these are only those companies who are too big. These companies have hug funding and investment to support this business modal. But Wizie is more focused on small and medium travel agents who don't have funding/investment and powering them with the booking engine technology and bring them online, so that they can compete with the OTA's.

Ritesh Gupta: Recently, you had exhibited during EyeforTravel's TDS Asia Summit in Singapore. Where do you think are major opportunities for a company like Wizie in this market? What are the main challenges?

Wizie: Sponsoring / exhibiting the Eyefor Travel's TDS Asia Summit was a part of our expansion. After the successful launch in North America and India, we are soon going to be present in Europe, Australia & New Zealand, Middle East, Far East (Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand) and Hong Kong/China markets. We have got a lot of prospective enquiries from all these countries. Our major issue is that we have a huge potential and market opportunity ahead, but each market is unique and different and we are trying to customise our product as per different market.

Ritesh Gupta: What's on your agenda?

Wizie: We have a very clear and set agenda. We are expanding to different parts of the world. We want the travel agents (Small, Medium and large) to make us of the technology and reduce their cost of operation and overheads.

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