TORONTO — Travel and technology converged at the Travelport Connect 2013 Toronto Showcase, held recently at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre. As a leader in distribution services and e-commerce for the global travel industry, Travelport invited agency owners, managers and travel agents in the Toronto area to learn about its latest innovations and share best practices.
Key suppliers in attendance included Air Canada, Agency Technology, Contac, GoGo Vacations, Huntington Travel, Jade Tours, nuTravel, Porter Airlines, Travel Technology Solutions, WestJet and Wizie.
Generating the biggest buzz at the event was Travelport Agencia, the first and only integrated web-based shopping and booking application that allows Canada-based Apollo agents to take advantage of Travelport’s full suite of offerings. The tool enables agents to shop, price, book and modify all domestic, transborder and international fares, as well as sell a full range of Agencia (API connected) carriers’ à la carte options, along with traditional GDS content. Upon completion of the booking, information is integrated into a PNR, streamlining the agent’s invoicing, back office and reporting activities.
“It is truly a one-stop shop for agents, who can now shop in one place with just one tool,” said Maurita Baker, General Manager, Canada, Travelport. “For example, if an airline like Air Canada wants to sell special ancillary services, branded fare families, etc., we can do that now through this technology. We’re bringing all this content together in an aggregated display for the agency community, enabling efficiency and productivity and giving agents the information needed at the point of sale while at the same time making it very attractive for airlines to sell in the manner they want.”
A basic version of Agencia was launched a few years ago to a few strategic agents. Since then, many enhancements have been made and it was relaunched in 2012 with well over 2,000 licences in use.
“Even since the relaunch, we’ve been constantly evolving. For example, when Air Canada changes their product and distribution strategy, we also evolve with the product,” Baker added, who was quick to point out that Agencia is not exclusive to Air Canada. “We have the ability to sell any airline in the manner that they want to sell their product. Airlines today are in real need of differentiating their product and this is the only way they can do it.”
WestJet will be making its content available through this API (Application Programming Interface) in early 2014, which means the airline will be able to sell its product in a whole new way. Travelport has also signed an agreement with American Airlines to do the same thing.
And to make Agencia even more appealing to agents, it now has the capability to sell any corporate rewards program. Air Canada just happens to be the only carrier that has a corporate rewards program. Agencia users can shop, price and book corporate clients using their Air Canada Corporate Rewards ID.
“Today, a travel agent who is not using Agencia needs to go to one website to book a corporate rewards program, then another website to book Air Canada’s regular retail, and another to book an Air Canada Flight Pass. If they want to book WestJet or any other carrier, they have to go to their GDS or other websites. With Agencia, all of this show up on one display – the magnitude of this cannot be underestimated,” Baker added.
To shave off time during the shopping and booking stages, Agencia manages modifications and changes. According to Baker, the average corporate traveller changes travel plans frequently. Agencia has an automated way to update all booking information, which limits disruptions and saves valuable time.
Baker also noted that some airlines today incentivize agents with commissions and back-end commissions to book on their websites. But because Agencia is a conforming channel by the airlines, “we pay the exact same incentives that they would make. We offer through our commercial agreements productivity credits and incentives for bookings, which makes things more efficient since it’s all coming from the same site. It’s like agents are double-dipping, getting incentives on all angles.”
To help agents familiarize themselves with Agencia, Travelport offers extensive ongoing training – online, instructor-led and self-paced. If an agency wants to transfer from their existing GDS over to Agencia, then Travelport offers a much more extensive, hand-held support structure.
Other benefits of Travelport include enhanced search and booking capabilities, thanks to a metasearch engine that compiles several different hotel suppliers. Over 450,000 hotels – from hostels and budget properties to boutiques and the traditional Marriotts and Hiltons – are available. This translates to over a million hotel offers, an unprecedented amount in the industry.
Travel agents also have the ability to view commissions upfront so that they can make more informed decisions. “There may be more than one wholesaler or tour operator selling the same product at the same price point but with different commissions,” said Baker. “What we do is give agents all the information to sell more effectively.”
For more information on Travelport Agencia and other Travelport products, visit travelport.com.