IBM and Vantage Deluxe World Travel Make It Easier for Travelers to Book Vacations
ARMONK, NY - IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that Vantage Deluxe World Travel, the leader in travel to active, mature American travelers, has increased sales and improved business operations since turning to IBM to run its Web site and online booking system. Since switching to IBM WebSphere Commerce software, Vantage Travel has reduced order-taking time by 80 percent and increased revenue for the company. The new Web site also has special features to make it easier for consumers to navigate and make reservations.
Based in Boston, Mass., Vantage Travel offers all inclusive escorted package tours for active mature travelers. Booking such a tour is a complicated process since planes, ships, buses, hotels, restaurants and professional tour guides need to be booked individually by the company but need to be coordinated with the departure dates of the tours sold to customers. Until recently, customers had to book their tours by calling Vantage’s call center staffed with reservation specialists. The online reservation system greatly increases customer convenience, however, since wait times could often be long and booking tours were a lengthy process depending on the time of day.
“Our market changes every single day,” says Peter Groustra, director of information technology for Vantage Travel. “We knew we could vastly improve the customer experience by deploying an online booking application to enhance our existing Web site. IBM came in and really pulled the project together in an amazingly short period of time -- five months, compressing a development cycle that was slated to take 12 months.”
The online reservation process designed by Vantage Travel now presents customers with a grid of simple choices on the very first screen, including tour information such as ships, dates, availability and prices. The application flows intuitively, helping customers make decisions in a fast, easy to follow process that typically takes under three minutes.
If a date is sold out, customers can choose from all the available alternative dates on a single screen. Cross-sells and up-sells are smoothly incorporated into the application, offering tour “extensions” such as offering pre- and post-tour extensions on its river cruise programs, travel protection, and business class air upgrades.
“When customers book a tour, the application is simultaneously booking reservations for hotels, buses and so on,” says Groustra. “We needed our online system to extend the complexities built into our core business systems out to the Web without making the process too complicated for our customers. The WebSphere Commerce solution did this without having to completely rewrite our back-end systems.”
After the new online booking application had been live for one month, Vantage conducted a customer survey to see how customers had fared with the new booking process. The result was that 87 percent of customers ranked the experience as very good to excellent.
WebSphere Commerce is part of Vantage Travel’s service oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, which allows its Web site to integrate with online and offline data sources including databases and partner Web sites. By taking advantage of SOA, IBM’s software also integrates with Vantage’s existing IT system including a third-party database, which manages information about the tours.
“This project is a great example of how IBM is helping clients adapt to constantly changing conditions such as rising fuel costs and new terms of engagement between airlines and travel agencies,” said Marty Salfen, general manager, IBM Travel and Transportation. “Using IBM software and SOA, companies like Vantage can make it easier and less expensive for consumers to book vacations, while reducing the time and money it takes to manage a complex business and Web site like this.”
In the near future, Vantage expects to conduct 20 percent of its business online, which will take a burden off its call center, reduce wait times and improve the customer experience.
At the current level of online business, Vantage Travel expects to pay back the investment in six months. Since using the new IBM software, the company can now offer its customers the convenience of booking online with the best online reservation system in the industry.
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