Travelport will open the curtains on its new leisure agent accommodation and extras search and booking service next week - a brand new system called Rooms and More.
[caption id="attachment_41886" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="NB: Image is a mock-up ahead of launch"]
The system is the result of a major effort in recent months to overhaul the old Travelport Leisure agent platform after the appointment of Niklas Andréen as group VP for global hospitality to oversee the company's deeper push into hotels and acquisition 12 months ago of metasearch engine Sprice.
As hinted at in March this year, when the new system was first talked about publicly, Rooms and More borrows heavily from the Sprice technology and user experience, meaning to agents it will have the look and feel and functionality of a consumer-facing metasearch engine.
The launch is on target (originally timed for the third quarter of 2011, with a gradual roll-out beginning shortly) and is expected to give agents access to around 200,000 individual hotel properties, Andréen says. The number is expected to rise to 300,000 in the first phase.
In addition, the total number of properties from multiple suppliers (some still to be confirmed, but Lowcostbeds, Transhotel and LateRooms are in for the launch) will reach eventually reach 1.3 million.
Travelport is hoping the global service ("a one-stop marketplace") will appeal to agents with loyalties to other GDSs for flight search and booking, although the single PNR fulfilment in the back-end will only be available to existing air customers.
The platform will also include vehicle rental services provided by TUI Cars and locally arranged tour and activity products.
Rooms and More includes many of the existing Sprice features, Andréen says, including ratings, photos, in-depth descriptions and the ability to search via nearby places and amenities.
[caption id="attachment_41885" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="NB: Image is a mock-up ahead of launch"]
Head of product for consumer and new ventures, Brian Blatts, says a second phase for the platform will come later in the year with what are hoped to be significant developments with the user interface using semantic search and enhancements to the user review service, possibly including integration with existing professional reviews from the Travelport Opinions platform.
Travelport is also open to developing a white label version of the system for use by corporate clients and other third parties.
"We are taking the metasearch model and looking at it from a travel agent perspective," says Batts, with the integration of traditional online search and shopping tools alongside complex reporting and agent-focused tools such as commission and pricing information.
Another interesting feature Andréen is keen to talk up is the use of Paypal for the first time by Travelport.
The web-based payment system is being used to handle the commission payments back to agents, essentially as a central and global clearing house rather than through existing banking services.
"We are using Paypal because the commission structure needs to be reconciled for agents," Andréen says.
The major push to expand Travelport's hotel efforts comes as research group Euromonitor predicts the value of global hotel bookings will reach $545 billion by 2015, an annual growth rate of 5.9% between 2010 and 2015.
The company sold its GTA hotel wholesale business to Kuoni for $720 million in March 2011 in an effort to streamline the business into core technology and GDS services.