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 honeymoon
Travel 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 More
But 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
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,
"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
"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."