New Ebookers site will be Cendant showcase

Ebookers will be the first European website in the Cendant portfolio to have a long-awaited makeover to improve reliability and customer experience.

The website, which was snapped up by Cendant for around £200 million in 2004, will be the showcase for what Cendant bosses in Europe have called “the A to Z of consumer travel” across its array of travel sites.

Currently under the working title of Project Austin, Cendant’s multi-million pound investment will kick off with a major overhaul of back-office functions across the portfolio, including Gullivers and Orbitz, with Ebookers the first to be unveiled in November this year.

The remaining sites will come on-stream during 2007, chief information officer for international markets at Cendant, Neal Sunners, told Travolution.

A new revenue management system and full-service platform to handle flights, car hire, hotels and dynamic packaging bookings will also be included in the overhaul, which is being built on a modular system tailored specifically to the European market, but with the capability to integrate with existing US facilities.

A major change for Ebookers will see the end of the differences the consumer might experience between country sites, Sunners said.

“Where there is commonality [as in Europe] we are working together. We need to keep the technology closer to the markets we are developing,” he added, rather than use existing or new products built in the US.

Building a relationship with users will also play a major part of the new system.

Sunners admitted Ebookers – which some analysts predict could be overtaken in Europe by Priceline this year following “integration” issues since its purchase by Cendant – was not performing to its full potential.

“The consumer experience on Ebookers is not as fluid,” Sunners said. “There is a lot of information that we do not collect about users on the current platform.”

Behind the scenes the new platform will also drastically cut down on what Sunners called “human touch” with ticketing, by introducing massively increased levels of automation across the portfolio.

Sunners admitted that in some countries – such as Switzerland – 100% of tickets were handled by staff, but the overhauled system will cut this down to less than a fifth.

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