MILWAUKEE -- If Trisept Solutions' chief executive John Ische is
right, his company's VAX VacationAccess agent booking Web site
could free many agents from the need to maintain costly accounts
with GDSs, especially in September when the system incorporates a
new feature: dynamic packaging.
US Airways recently introduced TriSept Solutions'
dynamic-packaging technology on the US Airways Web site at www.usairways.com.
But the same system, which provides real-time access to air,
hotel and rental-car inventory, and enables users to create their
own packages, will also be available to agents in mid-September on
TriSept Solutions, the technology company owned by Mark Travel's
parent company, La Macchia Enterprises, developed the packaging
technology. TriSept operates the VAX VacationAccess site.
Before the addition of dynamic packaging, the extent of VAX's
capabilities was to enable agents to book standardized packages
that use blocked inventory.
The site provides a booking channel for 20 suppliers, including
the vacation packaging brands of Mark Travel and Certified
Vacations, as well as Carnival Cruise Lines and Club Med.
In October 2000, TriSept tried to expand the platform to include
escorted tours by bringing Mayflower Tours into the system. But in
early 2003, Mayflower pulled out, leaving VAX without an escorted
"The volume wasn't there," said Mayflower chief operating
officer Nish Patel. "It was hard for people to book us and not call
us. With the escorted tour business, there is so much to know, so
many questions, such as what to wear on day three at dinner. Is it
formal? People would book on the site and still call us."
An additional problem was that Mayflower's air-inclusive
bookings were still done in the traditional tour operator manner
using seat blocks, which required the air component to be added
manually in an extra operation.
But even without escorted tours, and before dynamic packaging,
Trisept CEO Ische said the VAX product is growing in popularity as
a free alternative to the GDSs.
"The booking volume of VAX is five times greater than a year
ago," said Ische. "The number of agents using the site has grown to
21,000 agencies, 50,000 agents. Many agents who used to use the
call center now use VAX. It's the perfect tool for home-based
agents, or agents who are not ARC appointed. Agents who use the GDS
are finding VAX to be a better product. It's quicker and more
According to Meier the site is a better communication medium
than the GDSs. "We are able to market programs through it, send
information on specials and do it instantaneously. Agents
appreciate it. All they need is a PC to access it. It's free to
The system also enables agents to track payments, details of
transactions and customer-service interactions.
For some agents, VAX already takes the place of the GDS. "I
don't use the GDS; I don't like the system," said Azad Hovsepyan,
owner of Sabo Travel, in Glendale, Calif. "You have to know all the
formats, codes. It's easy for me on the Internet. The GDS isn't
friendly. VAX is very friendly, easy to use."
Of course, all of the GDSs, which have the infrastructure to
aggregate far more suppliers than VAX, have Web-based
For home-based Bill Borders, owner of Sea Borders Dream Cruises,
the use of a GDS isn't even a question. "I never had a GDS
contract," he said. "The only reason I would have to use GDS is to
book plane tickets, but we're getting away from that. I can book
packages on VAX and get the commission on the flight."
But it's not for everyone, or for every need. "Only once did I
use it," said Nancy Pugh, owner of Tortuga Travel of Flowertown,
Pa., referring to the VAX site. "We do use US Airways Vacations,
but we do it over the phone. I like the back-and-forth of the
phone. I didn't find the site that agent friendly. It's hard to
jump around on it. I haven't had time to give it the attention it
Gene Clock, vice president of sales and marketing of Iobst
Travel Service of Emmaus, Pa., said, "It's something we would look
at, except it doesn't include our [Giants] preferred
"I have tried it," said Lauren St. Helaire, office manager of
Adventure Tours and Travel in Lyndhurst, N.J. "We've registered but
haven't made any bookings on it. It's not the easiest to use. It's
probably just familiarity. But we have our preferred suppliers we
go to first."
The VAX dynamic packaging system went into beta testing with a
select group of agents this week.