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Covid-19 drives development of integrated online booking systems

Covid-19 drives development of integrated online booking systems
Ongoing coronavirus threats mean passenger booking systems need to be online to minimise physical contact on cruise ships and ferries

While demand has slumped for passenger shipping, remote working means more bookings will need to be completed online. Ferry operations are steadily returning to pre-coronavirus schedules, but cruise ship operations have almost halted in many markets. Asian cruising has restarted, with Genting Cruise Lines one of the first to return some ships back into action.

Its subsidiary Dream Cruises has recommenced operations in Keelung, Taiwan. It intends to complete a series of round-trip cruises to Taiwan’s Penghu, Matsu, Hualien and Kinmen islands. It uses Seaware software for reservations and ticketing. Genting Cruise Lines vice president for marine operations and safety Captain Havard Ramsoy says its reservation system enhances passenger safety on board its cruise ships.

“With each ship having a maximum capacity for safety, Seaware will not allow bookings to exceed each designated fire or assembly zone,” he explains to Passenger Ship Technology.

“This system enables us to optimise its business revenue via cabin bookings that strictly follow the safety guidelines,” he says. “When our ships resume business operations in the near future, it will initially operate at a reduced capacity rate to allow for social distancing and this will be part of the new parameter of the software.”

These Covid-19 safety measures mean operators must make sweeping changes. “Travellers will be more cautious and have heightened expectations on hygiene, safety and preventive measures,” says Capt Ramsoy. “Exceeding these expectations will become the new normal for the cruise industry and Genting Cruise Lines is committed to maintaining the highest possible safety and hygiene standards.”

Initially, safe distancing will be a common practice on board. “This will see our guests check in online with designated times at the terminal to minimise congestion, which will be reflected in our reservation system,” he continues.

“Our online check-in platform will be further enhanced to collect contact and emergency contact details for contact tracing. We are also working towards contactless check in and access to cabins.”

Genting’s guests will be required to fill in health declaration forms and undergo contactless temperature screening during embarkation and disembarkation at destinations, subject to local port authorities. “On board venues will be operating at reduced capacity to ensure ample spacing among guests,” says Capt Ramsoy.

Integrated solutions

Rescompany Systems has provided software to Dream Cruises, American Cruise Lines, Aida Cruises, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Paul Gauguin and Star Clippers. Ship operators are looking for mobile booking options, web-based seamless user interfaces and integration with social media, says Rescompany managing director Peter Winqvist. They are also looking to use artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analysis and instant messaging, but in the short-term, coronavirus is driving service trends.

“Due to the Covid-19 situation, passengers will need to provide information about their health, scanned doctors’ certificates, local legislation from governing bodies and advise of any changes before boarding,” says Mr Winqvist.

Rescompany’s latest software is Resco Central Reservation System (Resco CRS) and Customer Relationship Management (Resco CRM) combined in one integrated solution. These are part of the company’s drive to deliver full web-based, digital and mobile services to cruise liners. Resco supports multiple languages and currencies to support cruise ships small and large, cruise tour operators and charter companies.

“Other interfaces are not necessary, which makes Rescompany particularly desirable for small and medium-size companies not wishing to invest in third-party software,” says Mr Winqvist.

Resco CRS can handle complex bookings such as packaged, dynamic, group, allotments and tour reservations. “Pricing formats are supported by applying individual surcharges at booking inception,” he explains. “Rules control the payment schedule, cancellations, invoice generation, commission calculations and agency access restrictions.”

This system covers all aspects of operations, from the initial customer enquiry to bookings, reservation modifications, payments, generating sales invoices, commissions, to reconciling agency accounts.

“Data can be exchanged with external systems such as general ledger and also directly with ship property management systems,” says Mr Winqvist.

“We offer a personalised approach to data reporting and manipulation, transforming the raw data stored throughout the Resco suite into dynamic, actionable business analytics.”

Analysts accessing the system can create dashboards with their own unique views for data mining and visualising complex analytical concepts across each individual business focus, such as revenue, inventory, or marketing.

“And with our AI modules coming soon, we will enhance the power of Resco BI even further with predictive models,” says Mr Winqvist.

By combining CRS and CRM, Resco provides a 360º view of guest activity, shore-to-ship, and ship-to-shore. “Integrating these solutions is a key component in servicing the cruise industry into the future,” he says. “Business intelligence and AI together provide the valuable insight businesses need to be competitive and reactive to market conditions.”

Users of the systems are quickly able to understand and know the guests they serve, with the ability to highlight guests’ loyalty levels, cruise history, and preferences. “Such key information is also readily available to the user on mobile devices such as tablets, phones or the web,” says Mr Winqvist. There are messaging links to social media for information flow and seamless data updates when changes are made to bookings, stored against the passenger’s unique record “enabling the full lifecycle management of guests and agents”.

A Resco central module for concentrating information “helps ensure consistency, reduces latency, and greatly improves both efficiency and correctness of data updates,” says Mr Winqvist.

“Clients can handle passenger check-in processes against the central database, allowing guest embarkation to proceed even in situations when the vessel itself suffers loses communication,” he explains.

Ferry reservations systems

When it comes to ferry bookings, passengers want more control and independence of their travel experience, while benefiting from standardisation and accessibility, says E-Dea Transport Technology chief commercial officer Marco Pavoncelli. But Covid-19 has restricted some services. “Recent measures linked to public health requirements have further expedited the adoption of several controls to respect social distancing,” he says. “Ferry companies need to limit queues at terminals and contact between passengers and employees.”

E-Dea offers eBooking for large ferry organisations with complete functional coverage to manage both passengers and cargo trading units. Its Ferry Cloud is a booking and ticketing service for small and medium companies. It has developed a smart applications umbrella, a new desktop app to manage registered customers and Ferry Dashboard business intelligence tool. “Our advanced BI tool provides analytics for forecasting, statistics, and trend analysis,” says Mr Pavoncelli.

“Our tag solution tracks passenger and vehicle movements based on radio frequency ID technology,” he says. “We are also active with several customers in the area of port automation, by integrating both with ferry companies and rail systems, customs and port control, enabling a complete paperless transhipment process with real-time traceability.” E-Dea can retrieve customer behaviour through different sales channels for both passenger and freight, with one integrated system.

“Operators are looking for optimised ship inventory. Our revenue management module allows ferry companies to implement fare classes and price optimisation strategies by integrating decision support systems,” says Mr Pavoncelli.

E-Dea terminal solutions like eBoarding and eModal enable efficient management of the embarkation process for passengers, vehicles and unaccompanied freight through smart web applications. These services are provided to BC Ferries, Grimaldi Group, Scandlines and Color Line.

Further developments for E-Dea will introduce smart applications for decision support, advanced loyalty programmes and using AI. “Our Loyalty and Ferry Wallet are a set of functionalities to support loyalty programmes with the concept of ‘earn and burn’ points, to improve customer retention and create targeted marketing campaigns,” says Mr Pavoncelli.

“Ferry Sense is a project that relates to a decision support system based on AI and BI technology to simulate and forecast business scenarios attaining to the ferry business,” he says. Key features will be revenue management forecasting, voyage planning, crew allocation and predictive maintenance. E-Dea is set to launch a new module to minimise human interaction during the entire boarding process.

 

More ferry operators are selecting standard systems that can be configured to their own requirements, according to Hogia Ferry Systems managing director Niclas Blomstrom.

“A standard system offers the operator continuous product development to keep up with the expectations across the industry, without operators needing to research, scope, develop and maintain that new functionality themselves,” Mr Blomstrom explains.

Having application interfaces is invaluable to ferry companies. “It gives them opportunity to select components and a large number of integrations,” he says.

Irish Ferries selected Hogia’s Bookit system for ticketing and reservations for its passenger and freight operations in Q1 2020 to replace two separate systems the ferry owner had for these operations. Passengers and freight will be in one system, improving capacity management and simplifying port operations. Hogia’s comprehensive API will enable Irish Ferries to integrate any hardware or third-party software, fulfilling both existing and future requirements.

Irish Ferries’ routes will be available for passenger bookings by the end of the year. The software for the commercial business will be implemented in 2021.

Self service and seamless integration are key to booking platforms

To reduce queues and interaction, ferry operators should introduce more self-service check in. “The travel experience is actually much better,” says Carus director of sales John Bertell. “A well designed and unmanned port is much more convenient for the passenger and gives the traveller more freedom on arrival times, waiting areas and other things important for enhancing the travel experience,” he says.

An integrated onboard experience is also important. “A modern traveller will struggle to understand why the mode of payment and the business rules are different when he buys the ticket, and when he is on board,” Mr Bertell continues. A loyalty scheme should cover all purchases on board and ticket purchases. “We see that ferry operators increasingly expect all customer-facing solutions to interact and have access to the same information,” he says.

Mobile app use is also increasing with passengers expecting more functionality and information to hand. “Customers expect to have their ticket and all essential travel information updated on their mobile phone,” says Mr Bertell. “These apps are expected to be practical with essential useful functionality that is easy to use and well designed.”

Carus Reservation and Carus Port platforms have been expanded to include the full traveller journey “including all customer-facing software they meet during ferry travel,” he says.

Carus provides a modern stack of RESTful application interfaces (APIs) specialised for specific tasks. “We do not just provide one API that covers everything, which becomes difficult to use,” says Mr Bertell. “But, instead they are very specific and well documented APIs that guide the integration partner through the integration work.”

These APIs are linked to the core system for advanced self-service, including automatic measurement and weight-in-motion modules.

“RESTful API technology makes sure the workflows of all systems correspond with the core solution,” says Mr Bertell. “The keyword in all our solutions is seamless, the whole customer journey is using many different contact points, but the information flows between the solutions to make the journey simple and easy for the traveller.”

This will be extended and enhanced with an external inventory module for direct travel services sales, such as adding hotel accommodation, flights or connecting travel services through an integrated solution.

 

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