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Passenger Ship Technology

Passenger ship reservations: apps, API and automation

Thu 05 Jul 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Passenger ship reservations: apps, API and automation
US fast ferry operator Seastreak has embarked on a multi-million dollar investment, including a new ferry and Hogia’s Bookit reservation system

The latest developments within the cruise and ferry ticketing and reservation sector have produced solutions a step above what was previously on offer

Mobile apps, integration, functionality and API (application programming interface) are driving reservations and ticketing solutions within the cruise and ferry industry.

Carus has developed a travel app launched in May this year after being installed by UK ferry operator Wightlink. It is also available in Apple's app store and Google's Play Store. Carus director of sales EMEA John Bertell said “It is now eight years since the first iPhone was launched, which brought a new type of solution in place, the mobile app. For a while everyone should have an app, no matter what it did. You just had to have an app. And we have seen hundreds (maybe thousands) of useless travel apps which just disappointed the end users.”

He stressed that a travel app for the passenger ship industry needs to have functionality, which Carus focused on. Mr Bertell explained “To include the right functionality in your app, you have to identify your audience. We see a completely different set of requirements for two distinctive types of app users: the cruise passenger, and the frequent traveller. One-time passengers and people who travel occasionally will never install and keep your app, so forget about those, they will be happy to use your responsive mobile web features.”

He said depending on the type of customer, ferry and cruise operators will see some of the following functional features asked for: 

  • View passenger’s boarding card, also when the phone is offline. 
  • Departure information related to passenger’s planned trip. 
  • Delays, important announcements. 
  • Contact information, driving instructions, maps. 
  • Weather information. 
  • Make a simple booking, use a multi-trip or season card. 
  • Manage and change contact details. 
  • Information on how to get services the passenger wants. 
  • Itinerary, events, happenings. 
  • Newspapers and magazines. 
  • Digital cabin keys. 

And he warned that operators will see customers uninstalling the app if filled with features including marketing information, advertisements and push messages when a passenger does not have a trip planned.

With all this in mind Carus developed a simple to use and flexible travel app, “which you can fill with a selection of practical functionality that fits your audience. You can even tailor several different apps for different markets with different available functionality”. 

Highlighting the benefits, Mr Bertell said “By serving your frequent travellers through the app you give them a personalised service. You are with them in their phone and you build trust and loyalty. You can tailor services to customers who use you regularly without spreading the benefits to everyone.”

E-Dea chief commercial officer Marco Pavoncelli also identified mobile apps as an important trend, among others. He said “Automation and the respect of strict safety measures is the great challenge. Mobile apps are more and more common in the ferry industry; they are trying to improve passenger experience by allowing booking show and go, payments and automatic check-in with the use of QR codes for immediate response.”

Bearing all this in mind, E-Dea has been developing its range of solutions.

Mr Pavoncelli said “We have straightened and extended our standards-based open architecture, enabling deep third-party integration capabilities, providing customers with access to a rich set of integrations with value-added solutions from quality, trusted, market-leading vendors.”

He said the company’s Application Ecosystem program helps customers to extend the functionalities provided by E-Dea solutions, “through best-in-class applications vetted to meet their specific requirements along the whole solution lifecycle”. 

“The recent partnership with a leading RM provider to offer an embedded solution to all our customers is a significant step forward to respond to the latest market trends,” Mr Pavoncelli said.

“Selling the right product to the right customer at the right time for the right price, has become a key requirement for a growing number of ferry companies and remains together with the dynamic pricing among the most used methods for maximum capacity optimisation.”

Boosting secure check-in

Improving security at check-in is also a key requirement on a worldwide basis, especially with the growing capacity of ferries. In this direction, in addition to its solutions based on high accuracy LPR recognition linked to its integrated check-in solutions, E-Dea has focused on passive well-proven RFID technology to allow speedy boarding for both passengers and vehicles.

Mr Pavoncelli said “It is a technology which provides automatic identification and real-time data acquisition capabilities without requiring a high use of human resources. This technology, which was developed some years ago, had been widely used in the logistic market and in our opinion can be of great use also for the ferry business for accuracy, reliability and low costs”.

Integrated in to E-Dea’s check-in solutions, the main benefits of RFID are: increased automation, reduced port congestion, increased security, minimised human errors and better customer experience.

Looking to future trends, he singled out blockchain technology. “We believe that blockchain technology will soon be revolutionising the world of transportation and logistics. Blockchain has the answer to the problems that have been plaguing the transportation industry for decades, from data security and transparency to dispute resolution, administrative efficiency and passengers and freight tracking.”

Integration

Over at Rescompany, integration has been a major focus. Resco CRM now allows integration with social media channels. HTML5 web page design tools connect Resco customers to users that have WeChat, are on Facebook, or use other social media platforms for communication. “Resco CRM stores click information such as urls, location, viewing history and other web-based metrics. This information also flows through to Resco Notes. Flash sales, offers and incentives can be automated through Notes to capitalise on the ease of communication with social media,” said Rescompany systems customer relations and sales manager Sonja Berrang.

Email integration has also been a priority. The new Resco E-Mail Client is email software integrated into Resco’s CRS/CRM to give the following benefits:

  • No need for switching between Resco and another software to process inquiries which came in via email.
  • User can send a single email to a customer outside the mass-mailing functionality, for example as a follow-up of an earlier phone call.
  • Option to directly reply from Resco client and build email threads.
  • The email conversation is visible for any user with appropriate access rights. A must-have for call centre situations.
  • The emails are automatically assigned to the customer folios.
  • Additional assignments to bookings and notes are possible.
  • Attach additional internal information to emails.

Elsewhere, enhancements have been added to the Resco Central System, which allow Rescompany’s clients to take control of many of their ship-related management tasks while operating out of shore-side offices.

Ms Berrang said “This concentration of information helps ensure consistency, reduces latency, and greatly improves both efficiency and correctness of data updates. Naturally, medium and large fleets of ocean-going vessels stand to benefit, but Resco Central also provides significant value to those who operate river and expedition ships, where the vessels themselves often have limited manpower available to perform these kinds of tasks.”

For instance, clients can handle passenger check-in processes against the central database, allowing guest embarkation to proceed even in situations when the vessel itself suffers loss of communication. Additionally, check-in activities and gangway movement data are replicated from ship-to-shore. She pointed out that clients can set up and maintain centralised POS item master lists and manage onboard packages or promotions; co-ordinate gift orders and voucher schemes; manage ship visitors (such as guests or contractors), supervise shore- and ship-based loyalty enrolments and benefit redemption; perform urgent crisis management; and process complaints/claims/compensation and guest surveys.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has implemented Resco’s Central Reservations and CRM modules.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection vice president of information technology Benny Lago said “Resco’s experienced team of professionals have proven an invaluable resource to us in making sure the systems are designed and tailored to our very specific needs. We had a tight timeline with the project schedules being met throughout the project; our whole team are very pleased in the flexibility and capabilities of the Resco products”.

API focus

Hogia is meeting the increased demand for application processing interface (API) and functionality. Hogia international sales executive Meri Rigby said “We are continuing to see a need for a complete and comprehensive API. Our customers need API calls for everything in Bookit [Hogia’s reservation system], allowing them the freedom to find systems and technologies which are best practice for their business needs, without direct integrations hindering their choices for best-of-breed systems and hardware. 

“The Bookit API is an agile and extendable platform with well-documented standard interfaces, and the number of integrations allowed via the API are unlimited.”

She added “We are currently working on improving our own Bookit standard web booking pages. Many of our customers have chosen to build their own web-booking pages via our API. Everything you can book, check-in etc in the Bookit inhouse application is available via the API, so there really are no limits as to the functionality, look and feel.”

She explained that in the last year Hogia has been asked on a few occasions for a turnkey system including web booking. So, the company is now in the finishing stages of a new, contemporary looking, responsive web-booking solution, which has been built by its own API.

Hogia has won new ferry contracts this year which include the development of new products and upgrades. In the last six months, it signed contracts with two operators who have overnight operations more akin to mini-cruises. Ms Rigby said “This has led us to review and refigure our cabin reservations to dramatically improve the existing cabin functionality: graphic views both for customers and inhouse booking staff; block booking; opening and closing of cabin sections using simple drag and drop; multiple templates for allocation and distribution of cabins per vessel; to name just a few.” These changes will make cabin booking easier to use, and back office tasks quicker and simpler to perform.

Hogia has also supplied solutions to Eckerö Linjen to integrate its bus and ferry services. Ms Rigby said 40% of the ferry operator’s passengers arrive at the terminal by bus and one of its major challenges over the years was how to handle 13,000 departures per year across 11 multi-leg bus routes. Using an integration between Hogia Public Transport’s system PubTrans and Hogia Ferry System’s Bookit, the company will supply a solution that will allow simple and efficient bus scheduling in PubTrans, which will then be transferred to BOOKIT for booking seats.

It has also developed a hand-held check-in application for US east coast ferry operator SeaStreak. “They needed a handheld check-in application capable of validating tickets extremely quickly. Particularly for their commuter routes, where on one pier they are checking-in passengers out in the elements, it was vital they could process their 600 passengers fast and efficiently,” said Ms Rigby. With the help of this new application, the ferry operator can check-in and turn around their vessel in as little as 15 minutes.

Indeed, Seastreak has also signed up for Hogia’s Bookit reservation, ticketing and check-in system. The two-phase agreement schedules implementation this year for seasonal routes and next year for commuter services. Seastreak director of marketing Brett Chamberlain said “This is a much-needed investment. Our website does the job in attracting interest, but we have had challenges converting that interest into online sales. Seamless transfer of data between our inhouse systems and our e-commerce platform was critical to our decision. We met several providers, but we were very impressed with Hogia’s heavy investment in the enabling API, a prerequisite for advanced web development.” Seastreak went live with Bookit in April 2018.


 

Red Funnel launches single multi-modal platform

Passengers with ferry operator Red Funnel are now able to keep track of both ferries and connecting bus services via a single information system.

The solution provides passengers with consistent multi-modal travel information in real-time, even during times of service disruption.

Red Funnel carries over 3.5M passengers per year on its routes between Southampton and the Isle of Wight. The ferry operator is a long-time customer of Hogia. Since 2014, the Swedish IT company has helped Red Funnel distribute travel information regarding ferry services to its passengers. Now Hogia is supporting Red Funnel further in improving their customer services by extending the solution to include connecting bus services.

Hogia international sales executive Meri Rigby said “Passengers can now benefit from correct, consistent and harmonised multi-modal travel information covering their needs before, during and after their journey. Connecting bus services and other relevant journey information can now be made available on electronic display screens at the terminals, on websites, via social media and SMS.”

The Hogia solution enables a member of the customer contact centre team to distribute consistent information to all distribution channels with just a few clicks of the mouse, including text messages and emails to customers who are affected directly by service changes due to disruption to services. Ms Rigby added “It is also possible to distribute the same information internally to operational staff, embellished with additional operational information, for internal consumption only, ensuring that Red Funnel staff are as well informed as their passengers, and briefed with the next steps to be taken in the event of any type of service deviation.”

Red Funnel marketing and communications director Jonathan Green said “The ability to capitalise on our investment in Hogia’s products, and continuously add value by integrating additional applications, is unique. Our next step is to integrate real-time train departures as well.”


 

Scandlines benefits from new integrated reservation system

The adoption of E-Dea’s eBooking software for Scandlines has reported benefits and resulted in a very tight project implementation timeframe. 

The implementation project managed by E-Dea was to deliver a fully integrated reservation system to support Scandlines’ core processes including scheduling, product configuration, pricelist configuration, special offers, packages and more.

E-Dea Transport Technology chief commercial officer Marco Pavoncelli said “Thanks to its straightforward design, the system allows Scandlines to properly manage special offers and flexible prices to maximise seasonable revenue.”

He said the main challenge was to implement a system with an “aggressive” time to market constraint, able to integrate numerous third-party systems, including a different reservation system used by HH Ferries on the route Helsingør–Helsingborg.

The system is designed to enable Scandlines to provide targeted marketing and value-added services, establish a strong revenue management approach and enable future implementation of demand management through increased advanced purchase incentives and price flexibility. 

Scandlines chief IT officer Morten Hald Nielsen summarised the benefits of the system. “eBooking has contributed in rising our passenger service to a next level, introducing new tools for revenue optimisation and advanced port operation functionalities. Moving from a completely custom-made system to a best-in-class standard system has brought tangible benefits in terms of reducing IT costs and risks”. 

 

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