Monday, November 8, 2004
The web service, developed in collaboration with suppliers and software developers, will be proposed as an industry standard
San Francisco, November 8, 2004: Viator, the leading online aggregator of add-on travel products ? sightseeing, tours, attractions, passes & transfers ? has announced the launch of its ?Direct Connect? web service. Developed in collaboration with a group of US and European suppliers and software developers, the web service is designed to deliver the benefits of real-time inventory access that are viewed as standard in the air, hotel and car markets, but do not exist today in the add-ons space.
Release 1.0 of the web service, which covers basic availability request and booking confirmation functions, goes into production later this month for booking confirmations between Viator and one of its Hawaiian suppliers, Mary Charles & Associates (MC&A). MC&A uses reservations software from Hawaii-based software developer ATCO Systems, one of eight software companies and travel suppliers to collaborate on the project. Discussing the initiative, ATCO President Tom Blankley said ?We expect most of our supplier customers to quickly adopt the Direct Connect model. It delivers immediate cost benefits by fully automating the booking process, and allows suppliers to make more of their inventory available for sale right up to the day of travel. This sector has been crying out for some direction on connectivity, and this initiative certainly delivers it.?
Discussing technical aspects of the initiative, Viator CTO Jordan Digby said the web service follows OTA guidelines carefully, and that the company has proposed Release 1.0 as the basis for a more comprehensive, OTA-supported standard for the entire industry. ?By sticking closely to established OTA guidelines and only including very basic functionality in this first release, we?re confident we can capture the interest of other OTA members,? said Digby. ?Already we?ve been overwhelmed by support from our own suppliers, many of whom are focused on streamlining their operations and see this as a logical step in that direction,? he said.
London-based Evan Evans Tours also collaborated with Viator on development of the web service. Evan Evans? Managing Director Steve Wayling said participating in the initiative was a simple decision. ?We handle tens of thousands of bookings each month and there are costs associated with processing each one of them. Phone, fax and even email bookings are all high-cost, so we see great potential in shifting our business towards ?hands-free? bookings from distribution partners who adopt this web service. The fact that Viator is proposing an open standard and not a proprietary solution made this an easy decision,? he said.
Mark Mueller, President of American Trans Data, a software company based in Santa Ana, California, is also developing support for the web service. ?Our AL Tour System software is used by 200 coach tour and charter operators throughout the US. They never stop looking for ways to cut costs, and given the growth in bookings from the web, this is an obvious direction. We expect many of our users to adopt this new web service as soon as we release it,? he said.
Viator CEO Rod Cuthbert said the company is keen for other distributors and resellers of add-on travel products to adopt the web service as an emerging standard. ?Whether a reseller is web-based or a traditional wholesaler selling through off-line channels, the opportunity exists to increase efficiencies and reduce costs on both sides of the transaction. We?re inviting add-on suppliers, online and offline wholesalers and any other party that process high volumes of add-on bookings to get involved; it?s a long overdue initiative for this sector and there is no time like the present to get started,? he said.
Other participants in the development of Release 1.0 of the web service included InterRez, a Hawaii-based software vendor specialising in the tour & sightseeing market; TS.com, a UK developer specialising in ticketing solutions; and Historic Tours of America, a Florida-based tour operator.
Qantas Corporate Communications
Besides its technology licensing business, Viator is the online world's leading seller of travel add-ons: tours, attractions, theme parks and transfers. The company handles over 2500 passengers each day, principally US and UK residents travelling within the US and Europe.
It accepts direct bookings through www.viator.com and through a network of over 1,000 affiliated web sites, including Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, Sabre & Galileo. Viator's database comprises 4,000 products in 44 countries, representing more than 300 travel suppliers.
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