The benefits of Internet sales and dynamic packaging are now available to tour operators of all sizes at an affordable cost with the launch of the latest system from Mach Associates.
ÊBy using Version 3 of Mach’s popular MARS reservations system, both large operators and small specialists can compete with established on-line sellers for a share of Internet sales.
The key to MARS’ low costs is that operators do not face a huge up-front bill to buy the system, but simply rent it on a monthly basis. The initial cost is a tax deductible £6,000 to cover installation and training. Typical monthly usage costs start around £500 depending on the number of bookings, also tax deductible, and all support is free of charge.
The latest MARS package is the only tour operators’ reservations system that is 100% designed to work with Microsoft.net and Web Services. Any part of an operator’s Web site can thus be linked to MARS, allowing them to sell or package individual product components, without or without allocation.
It can be done at a fraction of the time, and cost that it would take with traditional ‘legacy’ systems that were designed in the early 1980’s. For example bookings on Galileo can be made seamlessly via the Internet, with no £500 a month fee, as can direct ferry and Eurostar reservations.
Mach Associates believes it is important for tour operators to become Internet-enabled as new figures* show that the UK is currently the largest online European travel market with 39% of all European online sales. In 2003 the European online travel market was worth some EUR 11.7 billion, or 5.4% of the market, with a further increase of about 27% during 2004 to EUR 14.9 billion, some 6.6% of the market.
Said sales director Richard Bristow: “Our new system gives tour operators of all sizes the ability to hit back at the rapidly expanding number of Internet and call centre operations that are taking business away from them by bringing together different holiday elements and dynamically packing them on the net.
“It was also crucial that we could offer a system that would have all power of the old legacy packages but offer much more flexibility by being designed to cope with this sort of development from the outset, and at a much lower cost”.
As a result MARS is not 10-20% cheaper than a legacy system but will actually cost just 10-20% of the cost of a legacy system, and pays for itself rapidly. For example it will save an average tour operator between one and five salaries and access to Galileo via the Internet, if required, would save another £500 per month.
There are also no support charges, which usually cost legacy system owners around 20% of annual costs, plus the first ten management reportsÊ - enough for most operators - are completely free. Reports then cost £2-300 compared with £2-4,000 from legacy suppliers.
Other important new enhancements of MARS Version 3 include a built-in mail server, which gives each Booking Record is own mailbox, allowing customers or suppliers to be emailed directly from the booking, and the addition of ERS Connect for on-line credit card authorisation and Eurostar bookings. This aspect alone will save the operator the cost of a leased line or dedicated PC and ISDN line.
Added Richard Bristow: “What we are offering the industry is a system that will cope with any size and type of tour operator and offer them the very latest technology to allow them to expand their business on the Internet, all for a price which traditional legacy suppliers often charge for maintenance alone”.
Mach Associates was the first company to launch an entirely Internet-based reservations system, and now offers clients a full range of services including full product support, training, software development, web site design, content management systems, and a mailing service.