SaaS can revitalise the tour operating old guard, says Tina Fitch

If SaaS (software as a service) truly “provides a more cost-effective alternative for enterprises to achieve their business objectives than traditional packaged applications”, why hasn’t it taken off in travel?

First, a couple of observations:

* The benefits of SaaS adoption go beyond the obvious. Travel companies have been focused on outsourcing legacy systems and reducing total cost of technology ownership – an important benefit of SaaS, but arguably the least creative.

* Several of the most heavily marketed travel technology vendors offer functional solutions but are either burdened by technology developed as a siloed enterprise application or are caught in a cycle of creating bespoke solutions for largely offline tour operators. These companies may offer a hosted model but with non-existent or immature web services, often bolted on as an afterthought. Dubbing these solutions “SaaS” does a disservice to the model, creating limited success stories or evangelists for what should be an open platform that offers all the benefits of the latest web technology.

One of the challenges inhibiting SaaS penetration within the travel industry has been the misperception of the model’s true value.

Too many travel companies view SaaS as just a cheaper, faster way to run their idiosyncratic internal systems – “do what we do now, just outsource it.”

On the flip side, too many vendors think SaaS is only about making enterprise software accessible through a browser.

The most successful SaaS offerings realize that opportunity on the Internet is outward-facing and interconnected, not beholden to inward-facing business processes.

The true value of SaaS is not as a hosted island, but as an integrated component of a global marketplace.

This “network effect” will drive exponential gains in productivity for its participants and deeper understanding of business results via real-time analytics.

Properly implemented, SaaS is addictive: you won’t want to leave the service because of the competitive advantage realised due to better decision-making, actionable data, and more efficient selling.

We are experiencing an exhilarating and necessary market transformation, in part fuelled by client demand for flexible, quick-to-market solutions to combat the challenging economic environment.

Looking ahead, the SaaS on-demand model stands poised to make a powerful impact as long as the market develops a more sophisticated perspective on its potential.

It will revitalise old leaders who fully embrace an open approach while enabling new ones by exposing them to unprecedented functionality and untapped sales channels.

Tina Fitch is co-founder and chief executive of EzRez

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