The recently installed chief executive of travel technology provider Vertical Systems has promised a new era of innovation from the firm, having completed a restructure of the business.
Mike Russell was brought in from Holiday Experts, the homeworking firm owned by Vertical, in March to run the technology arm that operates the TARSC travel agent software.
Russell said the result has been a merger of some businesses units to reduce costs, but that one area Vertical has retained capacity in is its ability to develop new products. He said its team of programmers was “bigger than ever”.
He said the company had to be in a position to forge a prosperous future whatever the outcome of the proposed retail merger of Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel.
Vertical is a major supplier to the Co-operative’s travel agency consortium Freedom Travel Group, of which Vertical Group chief executive Peter Healey was a director of until he recently ended his association.
Russell said: “I wanted to be in a position that whatever happened with the merger we would still be profitable. We need to be at the forefront of the technology sector. It’s fair to say we have in the past been driven by some of our larger customers.
“We have some of the brightest people in the travel industry working for us and they have not been able to bring ideas to market.”
The first sign of this focus on new product has been a new customer relationship management system currently being trialled by Holiday Experts and Manchester-based agency Miss Ellies.
The next key task will be to take TARSC to a .net browser platform, something that will also offer agents greater flexibility and allow greater integration with back office systems.
Russell said while Vertical’s technology has been known for its reliability, he wanted to encourage more innovation and that the ability to integrate systems was also key.
“I have run a travel business, so I know what the current market is like in terms of the challenges.
“Vertical’s relationships with its customer has been based on security and reliability in recent years more than on innovation. We have got to be up there on innovation as well and also integration.
“The future of any travel business generally is about either being a specialist or about volume and efficiency.
“It’s crucial and important to make sure all our travel industry products work together. Your relationships with your suppliers and customers are also crucial.
“It’s about interpersonal relationships underpinned by technology, not driven by it.”
Russell said he was keen to engage with travel partners in the development of future products with historically the average customer for TARSC being the independent travel agent.