Technology Itinerary-management platforms evolving with agents' use By Jamie Biesiada / January 01, 2018 Share 1 -- Jamie Jones still has some of the itineraries she used to create with Microsoft Word saved on her computer, as a reminder of sorts."None of them looked the same," recalled Jones, COO of WhirlAway Travel in West Chester, Pa. "It was awful. ... I have a couple of them that I haven't deleted yet, just so I can remind myself how far we've come."Like many other agents who today use itinerary-management platforms, Jones previously used the copy-and-paste method to create itineraries for her clients. Today, though, using Pocket Travel Consultant -- Signature Travel Network's white-labeled solution built on Axus Travel App's infrastructure and technology -- it's far easier to produce uniform itineraries under the WhirlAway brand.Itinerary app beats paper on Scotland honeymoonTravel Weekly reporter Jamie Biesiada said she only downloaded the Travefy app as a backup if something happened to her paper copies. She ended up using the app almost exclusively on the trip. Read MoreBut clean itineraries aren't the only thing itinerary-management platforms like Axus and its peers Travefy and Umapped have enabled. In fact, the way agents use the platforms has evolved in the past 12 to 18 months into productivity tools that enable agent-client communication in the mobile channel. What's more, they are increasingly being used in the quoting process. The platforms offer agents a place to create itineraries for clients in multiple formats, typically online, via PDF and using a smartphone application. The itineraries themselves are typically branded to the agent or agency. The platforms are designed to help agents easily import hotels, activities and the like as well as rich content.Karen Yeates, executive vice president of information technologies at Signature, said the platforms "have had tremendous evolvement, actually, in the short time that they've been in the marketplace." Companies like Axus, Yeates said, continue to add features, such as the ability for an agent to sync with passenger name records in their GDS or the ability to sync with popular customer-relationship-management systems, which is increasingly creating efficiencies in agents' workflows.There are also initiatives in place to integrate more with tour operators and destination-management companies, said David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships at Virtuoso. "I would encourage anyone who hasn't looked at itinerary-management tools in the last year to look again," Kolner said. Like Yeates, Kolner said the companies themselves are maturing and drawing investment to finance further improvements to their products. In some cases, they are being acquired.For example, earlier this year, Northstar Travel Group (the parent company of Travel Weekly) acquired Axus, and Travefy acquired the assets of TripScope, another itinerary-management platform.Scott Rutz, a member of Travefy's founding team, said that while he has not seen consolidation in the space, "I think the few that are around have gotten stronger and stronger."Passport Online has reported a recent spike in demand for its Datafeed product, which gives customers access to itineraries from 100 cruise and land suppliers. Marilyn Macallair, vice president of business development, attributed that spike to itinerary-management platforms like Travefy advancing Datafeed's offerings."What they're doing is they're taking it and serving it up in a different way, in that they're creating really cool kinds of itineraries or proposal capabilities for agents to be able to build them and make them accessible through a variety of means, primarily through mobile devices," she said.Many agents are realizing efficiencies in the time spent creating itineraries, enabling agents to get information to clients faster, Kolner said."I think there are a lot of halo effects, like you have more time to focus on the things that really matter to your clients, like customizing the itinerary or providing value-added service," he said. Agents are also increasingly using the platforms to send quotes and proposals.Lisa Israelovitch, founder of Umapped, said her product was initially designed as a platform to create a final itinerary document. Umapped, though, has seen an uptick in agents using it to send quotes, essentially becoming a "living itinerary" during the process.Going forward, the platforms will continue to evolve. Axus is becoming more of a network connecting agents with suppliers to collaborate on itineraries, said founder Julia Douglas (now a global strategic adviser with Northstar). Additionally, the app plans to further integrate business intelligence content from Travel42 (also a Northstar company).Greg Wilshire, Axus' director of operations, said the company "is really evolving into a network of advisers and a network of suppliers on the other end."Regardless of how itinerary-management platforms evolve in the future, however, Yeates said they are the wave of the future for travel advisers."This is not optional," she said. "Your clients are going to be demanding this, and they're going to go find somebody else who can deliver things to them this way."