Monarch spoke to Travolution as part of the 2015 Innovation Report, sponsored by Intent Media, that analysed technology spend in the UK travel industry
Monarch, one of the UK’s biggest travel groups, says it increased investment in technology during the recession as it made the switch to an entirely new operational platform.
The group, whose main brands include Monarch Airlines and tour operator Cosmos, took the decision to adopt Codegen’s Travelbox system.
The migration from its 20-year-old Cosnet platform began in December 2012, prompting the firm to declare it was “in the race” to compete online.
The investment came despite Monarch battling to improve its profitability, which led to its sale to Greybull Capital last October.
Gary Anslow, sales director of Monarch, said the investment picture in the airline and tour operator sector varies by operator and “reflects confidence, existing capability and investment capacity”.
But he said: “The Monarch Group has accelerated investment, influenced not so much by the economic climate but by a desire to be at the leading edge.
“Investment in the new Codegen integrated tour operating platform, together with app and website developments and overseas capability, is aimed at delivering a better experience for our partners and customers, and delivering long-term customer retention.”
The move to Codegen has allowed Monarch to shift away from legacy platform viewdata, which has long outlived all predictions of its demise.
However, legacy technology remains an issue in the tour operator sector, while airlines can suffer from technology fragmentation, said Anslow.
“Many tour operators are operating on legacy platforms, which are ingrained and in the DNA of the users, as they are often bespoke systems,” he added.
“Monarch’s migration from Cosnet to Travelbox has been a huge undertaking but creates a platform that is future-proofed and agile.
So how does this impact on decisions to build systems in-house as opposed to through third parties?
“Due to the sheer scale of investment in resource and time required to build a bespoke system, most airlines and tour operators are reliant on third-party technology; for example, Navitaire for airlines, and Codegen for the tour operator within The Monarch Group.
“There is also little evidence of improved speed to market or unique functionality inherent with bespoke build systems compared to those offered by third parties,” said Anslow.
Monarch says it has seen a shift to spend in both cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) solutions over the past two years.
Anslow said: “The benefit has been that we are able to scale the solutions more quickly and easily than traditional hardware solutions.
“We have also had to adapt and develop our own management capability in order to support these new types of environments. Gaining competitor advantage through new technology is a challenge and reflects the relatively mature nature of the tour operating and airline sectors.
“The market in tour ops and airlines is a fairly level playing field and reflects the complex nature of both markets, which often restricts the pace of change compared to other industries.
“Nevertheless, the quality of user experience that sits on those platforms is all important, and one where all parts of the industry are continuously seeking to improve.
“Innovation, therefore, is primarily being seen in the customer-facing products and services airlines and operators are developing, he said.
“Travel technology is very complex,” he added. “That said, some operators are showing strong innovation levels with their postbooking concierge services, especially when enabled via digital channels.
“In the airline market, the inflight experience is one area that will continue to develop. “Fragmented airport departure control systems can hamper progression where the airline does not use a single Departure Control System.
But generally, all-important reservation systems work on community models, requiring upgrades to keep up with modern requirements.
“For operators, the ability for agents to fully manage customers’ bookings online is important, reducing as it does reliance on call centre availability – this will change the way agents and tour operators interact.
“In resort, the enabling of pre-booking of excursions and tickets will change the shape of the traditional rep role, a fact already reflected by Cosmos Holidays with its Cosmos Concierge facility.”