E-FILES: Web enables live bookings

Budget Rent A Car, one of the country's largest car rental firms, has been running its Web site for some time but, in the words of information technology manager Gino Bos, 'we haven't shouted about it'.

www.budget.co.nz

Budget Rent A Car, one of the country's largest car rental firms, has been running its Web site for some time but, in the words of information technology manager Gino Bos, "we haven't shouted about it".

"We were aware of the whole Internet revolution, obviously, and that we had to get a Web presence - if you're in business these days you need to be online. But it hasn't been our desire to take a major front-end role."

The site began to attract a little more interest from about July last year, he says.

"We wanted to see how it developed, and what would improve the business, before we made a big deal of it," says Bos.

The initial reason for setting up the site was to create a booking facility - where people could make live bookings, instantly.

The site contains booking information, details about budget's services, plus links to other travel and tourist related sites, including airlines and destinations, both here and around the world. The site runs off an NT server with IIS and the company uses an ISDN line for the connection - "a pretty standard set up", says Bos.

However the booking system was made and developed in-house. "There's nothing off-the-shelf built in at all. We looked at a number of packages but they looked like too much trouble. We found, after examining what was involved, that we could do it quite quickly and more cheaply ourselves."

The site is currently carrying between two to five percent of budget's bookings. Users can stipulate the time and place they want to want to pick up a car and finish using it. The Web site's server then works out the costs and will take credit card orders. There are also separate parts for Automobile Association members and real estate agents.

At this stage the site is an "extra" to the company's distribution chain, says Bos.

"But obviously we're hoping more people will book, both here and overseas, and that will relieve our central reservations centre."

Bos says the use of Web sites for travel bookings and tourism-related activities is only just starting, and New Zealand is in some ways behind the rest of the world.

"My impression is that travel agents are a little bit behind in technology. For instance, Dutch travel agents are using the Web to auction travel packages for the industry's down periods," he says.

"From my perspective I think the instant access of the Web is a main attraction for people and we need to use it better. I think all sorts of travel can be booked through the Internet - and the main challenge for firms like ourselves will be to keep it under control."

There are also unresolved issues around the commissions for the various agents, hotels, airlines and travel firms, he says.

"People like us, the hotels and so forth pay booking fees to agencies. Now, with the Web booking, that's a threat to them and we don't want to threaten them as they are still producing the majority of our business."

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