E-FILES: Tourism crosses Solarsystem

Online booking firm Accomodata has been in the tourism industry for a quarter of a century, beginning as a firm offering farm-stays and home-stays to overseas tourists.

www.accommodata.co.nz

Online booking firm Accomodata has been in the tourism industry for a quarter of a century, beginning as a firm offering farm-stays and home-stays to overseas tourists.

As long ago as 1982 it began developing its own reservation and accounting systems, says director Graham Caldwell.

That central reservations package, Solarsystem, has evolved to the point where firms contract out their booking activity to Accommodata.

The success of that package is behind the comprehensive nature of the company's Web site ().

Solarsystem can sit behind any Web site, he says - for example CDL Hotels having it running the company's bookings over the Web.

The system covers inventory, accounting and reservations.

That means it's not only suitable for the larger concerns such as CDL, but also the myriad of small tourist operators that dot the country.

"New Zealand's tourism infrastructure is very small, and, particularly at the accommodation end, it's mostly small firms.

"People don't have the money for sophisticated systems. So what this does is enable small businesses to have a far more efficient presence.

"It makes sense for us to do it rather than have them re-inventing the wheel," says Caldwell.

With the arrival of the Internet, a move online was a natural progression, he says.

"It followed on pretty logically, given that people's travel patterns and requirements for reserving accommodation were changing."

The industry has followed the classic distribution chain system, and, even prior to the advent of widespread use of the Internet, operators were hard at work looking for ways of achieving more favourable margins.

"The more people you've got in the link the longer the time frame involved and the narrower the margins," he says. The popularity of the Internet came along at just the right time.

The system works at both wholesale and retail levels of the industry and its importance for the Accommodata site is that so many of the country's tourism operators use Solarsystem.

"We have portals linking in to bed and breakfast operators, apartments and hotels," says Caldwell.

"The system's ubiquity within the industry gives the Accommodata Web site its wide range of links to other tourism operators, at all ends of the market, both here and in Australia."

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