Travel agents test hosted apps

A pilot of hosted-application technology aimed at meeting the IT needs of the country's travel agents is nearing completion.

A pilot of hosted-application technology aimed at meeting the IT needs of the country’s travel agents is nearing completion.

Gullivers Online and Serko Technology Solutions, the travel software arm of travel company Gullivers Pacific Group, is trialing server-hosted and thin-client technology to deliver its Serko Corporate and Serko Retail travel agency products, as well as offer desktop applications, telephony and IT infrastructure services to agents.

Called Global Reach, the project is a collaboration between Gullivers, Telecom, which is providing the IP-based virtual private network, and iVASP (the application service provider — ASP — business of GDC Communications), which is hosting the software at its data centre and providing the infrastructure services and desktop applications.

Travel agents will pay a monthly fee for the choice of a menu of services, including the core travel agency system, which links to the major reservation systems of Amadeus, Gallileo, Sabre and Abacus, Gullivers’ wholesale system. They also gain access to voice over IP and desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and Project.

Gullivers Online and Serko Technology Solutions CEO Kathy O’Connor says Global Outreach will be available not only to Gullivers’ own travel agent chains — Signature Travel, Atlantic Pacific Radius and Holiday Shoppe — but also to Gullivers Online and Serko Technology Solutions’ independent clients such as Business World Travel.

O’Connor says managing a desktop can be complex and smaller or remote travel agents often can’t get the support they need.

“The future of travel is about multi-channel access. We have to be able to access a variety of websites — hotels, consolidated airfares and airlines. To do that you need the bandwidth and security a wide area network gives, virus control and firewalls.”

One of the problems Global Reach had to overcome was getting tickets printed from the host to printers anywhere in the country. Travel agents use dot-matrix printers, as they need to have carbon copies printed, and most are old.

“There are also some quite old PCs out there,” says O’Connor. “[But] we took some measurements before we started the pilot as to the performance of PCs and there has been a substantial improvement.”

Four sites — Gullivers’ Penrose training facility and Holiday Shoppe outlets in Auckland’s Pakuranga, Botany Downs and Newmarket — are taking part in the pilot. It will continue for another month before being followed by a general rollout.

O’Connor says the company wants to provide the service in Australia and Singapore to add to the 600 Serko users around the country.

Travel agents currently use JetStream and dial-up modem connections, as well as Sita’s X.25 network, to connect to Gullivers. They pay a monthly rental fee and will continue to do so, with their communications costs and other applications bundled in.

Last December Telecom Advanced Solutions and iVASP entered a contract for Telecom to supply ASP services to its customers using iVASP service and infrastructure. IVASP’s offerings include software applications, IT support and remote data storage.

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