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31.12 '09 Comtec and Pharos succeed in Eurostar link for Thomas Cook

Comtec Thomas Cook’s Globe project reached a significant milestone recently with the launch of automated Eurostar reservations.

Taking advantage of Comtec’s Travelink tour operator solution and the Pharos Xchange connectivity service for Eurostar bookings, Thomas Cook operations now benefit from the unique, fully integrated, flexible interface to the rail operator.

Embracing fully resilient systems for both online sales and call centre, reservations can now take advantage of Rail Inclusive Tour fares, all classes of fare, flexible ticket options and seat assignment. In addition itineraries may include over 100 destinations known as Eurostar Connections in France, Belgium, The Nederlands, Germany and Switzerland including TGV and other SNCF services.

The technology solution enables Thomas Cook to meet the demand for their very popular Cresta holidays to Disneyland which take advantage of Eurostar services. It is planned to add support for other Thomas Cook brands within the Globe project to take advantage of this new link to increase the success and benefits available to business from their important partnership with Eurostar.

The Travelink solution was delivered to Thomas Cook by Comtec in a very short timescale, taking advantage of the collaboration agreement formalised sometime ago between Pharos and Comtec for Eurostar, Eurotunnel and Ferry reservation services.


21.12 '09 Ferries more in Greece

FORTHcrs Our continuous development of Xchange services has led to increased support of Greek ferry operators.

This has been made possible in partnership with FORTHcrs, the dominant ferry sector IT supplier in Greece, the most dense ferry services sector anywhere.

Comprehensive FORTHcrs solutions are in use at over fifty operators, in addition to IT installations at agents, so we have great confidence in working with them to extend Xchange coverage.

Ferry lines added with international routes are Agoudimos, Endeavor, European Seaways, Montenegro and Ventouris.

The biggest operator, Blue Star Ferries, with around 700 routes and about 20% of the Greek domestic market, is also added. Blue Star is sister operator to Superfast, which together with Minoan means our online integrated support there now totals eight operators.


16.12 '09 Passenger Shipping Association

PSA As a connectivity company it is vital we are well connected !

Recently Pharos became an Associate Member of the PSA, the 50 year old, unique, not-for-profit organisation based in London and representing sea travel internationally and particularly in Western Europe and the UK.

The 14 Ferry Section Members, most of them Pharos clients and partners, regularly attend the association’s meetings, conferences and industry events.

The PSA successfully cultivates strong press relations on behalf of its Members and industry. Increasingly this influences sea travel as a passenger choice, for example through their Sail and Drive campaign.

We are now much better connected !


23.06 '09 Vertical Group joins in, moves up

Vertical Group We are pleased to welcome the Vertical Group to our growing band of Xchange clients, to take advantage of our Eurostar, Eurotunnel and ferry reservation services.

Like many other Xchange users, they are a ‘second generation technology organisation’. Having already established themselves in online ferry reservations, with experience their needs became more discerning for a tailored solution to match their market aims, independence in their online links to suppliers of ferry and rail services and to be able to create their own markets. These were the factors in selecting Xchange.

Vertical, quoted as the longest established and largest providers of technology to the UK travel industry, whose clients include the Freedom Travel Group and Advantage Travel Centres, will make the service available to clients through multiple channels.

In the initial stage Vertical will utilise our flexible Internet Booking Engine, incorporating secure payments direct to bank and providing complete hand-off links to back office systems.


06.02 '09 Comparison site specialist on board

Ferryonline We are pleased to announce new client Grovelawn Internet Services Ltd has become the latest user of our Xchange reservations service.

Grovelawn are a well established company specialising in comparison web sites and offer a wide range of travel and insurance sites.

Their activities embrace ferry reservations and will shortly feature ferry operators around the UK supported by our Xchange service.

This will allow consumers to easily and swiftly find their ideal route, itinerary, price and operator to suit their needs.

Later, Grovelawn plan to expand by creating similar continental web site ferry reservation services, so benefiting from the extensive number of ferry operators in central Europe already available via Xchange.


31.01 '09 Irish Sea Trade Boost

Travel Solutions Belfast We recently welcomed our new client Travel Solutions of Belfast, a major agency and tour operator active in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to our expanding group of Xchange users.

Amongst their many specialist promotions, themes, events and tours, they are a well established ferry agent, working with P&O Irish Sea on the Scottish routes and Norfolkline on their Dublin and Belfast routes.

The ferry activities will shortly be made available online via our Xchange reservation service at www.travel-solutions.co.uk, in anticipation of growth from existing and new business areas.

Travel Solutions have opted to use our Webster Internet Booking Engine for the booking facility. Webster meets the complex needs of their wide variety of users, including members of Closed User Groups, subagents and affiliates, as well as retail consumers in both countries, with support of euro and Sterling payments.

In addition to our enthusiasm in working with Travel Solutions we have a sense of déjà-vu: they are a user of the Tourplan system, a previous partner organisation that we are pleased to be working with once again.


12.01 '09 Short Breaks – Ferries and Eurotunnel join Eurostar

Shortbreaks Short Breaks Ltd, our long standing tour operator client, have just celebrated 10 years of success and are developing and extending their business activities.

With accolades such as ‘Best Eurostar Branded Website’ (Eurostar Sales Awards), and ‘Favourite European Short Breaks Operator (by the Evening Standard Travel Awards), Short Breaks is very successful and well established as a Eurostar city breaks operator.

Recently we have collaborated with them to extend their activities further, branching out into Self Drive Holidays and breaks in France, Belgium and to Disneyland® Paris with ferry operators including P&O Ferries, Eurotunnel and others.
‘This development takes advantage of our proven success in breaks to the same region and our intimate knowledge of attractions, events and hotels’ noted Tony Cancelliere, responsible for the venture at Short Breaks. ‘The Self Drive options complement our existing Eurostar program with a selection of very good value holidays, which are particularly attractive in today’s economy’.
Due to the Pharos interface technology and Xchange reservations service, our client was able to incorporate the new reservations easily and without upheaval to operations.


Brittany Ferries Brings Pharos On-board as Reservation System Partner

Brittany Ferries Brittany Ferries travel trade clients can look forward to enhanced selling opportunities following a recent long term agreement between Pharos Datacom and Brittany Ferries. Under the agreement Pharos will extend the scope and functionality of online access to the Brittany Ferries reservation system, providing simpler and more versatile options for tour operators, online travel agencies, intermediaries and other resellers integrating ferry bookings into their own sales processes.

A Web Services XML interface will enable clients and their technology providers to integrate ferry bookings with the Brittany Ferries reservations system for their own Web based sales applications. The new interface complies with the international XML standard for ferry bookings created by the TTI (Travel Technology Initiative).

Another stage of the agreement between the two companies is the enhancement of the traditional UNICORN service offered by Brittany Ferries, facilitating the use of IP connections in addition to the conventional X25 access.

The options offered by the new channels will create more efficient and versatile booking services for Brittany Ferries travel trade partners, and lead ultimately to increased trade bookings and improved user satisfaction.

"We have been implementing Web Services successfully for many years as a reliable and flexible basis for providing ferry bookings services for the travel trade. This was a major contributing factor to the confidence shown in us by Brittany Ferries in awarding this business critical service to Pharos", noted Alan Warburton, Managing Director, Pharos Datacom.
Andy Richings, IT Manager at Brittany Ferries added :
"This service will significantly improve our trade reservations efficiency and enable us to give a better service to our trade partners. We look forward to more efficient bookings and increased volumes particularly through Web Services integrated links to client systems. We have worked successfully with Pharos as a technology partner for over a decade."
The work of the TTI standards organisation and its collaboration with its international, US based, counterpart, OpenTravel, is of critical importance to the global passenger ferry sector.

General Manager of the TTI (Travel Technology Initiative), Mick Mott commented:
"The ferry XML standard was developed as a collaborative project and we are delighted that it continues to be taken up by the industry. It once again demonstrates that competing organisations can cooperate together for a common goal."


Inghams Choose Pharos Platform for Ferry Holiday Online Bookings

Inghams Using ready-made, tried and trusted components from the Pharos reservations platform, Inghams 'Just France', one of the longest established specialist French operators, have launched a new online booking facility for ferry holidays in time for the post Christmas booking period. The new service, which enables the online booking of ferry and accommodation packages, went live in December and provides an extra string to Inghams' competitive bow in a travel market which is being rigourously challenged in this current recessionary climate.

The Just France brand specialises in holidays to France, offering inclusive air, rail and ferry packages, with a range of accommodation options in locations ranging from Brittany to Provence.

The Pharos Xchange Reservations Service connects Inghams with its own network of suppliers, which include Condor, Brittany Ferries, P&O and Eurotunnel, for real-time ferry reservations. Accommodation options from 'Just France' free sell allocations can be added to the package to provide a complete ferry holiday which is bookable online. Webster, the Pharos white labelled Internet Booking Engine, which is a critical component of the solution, enabled Inghams to complete the entire integration work in only a few months, achieving huge cost savings and a quick time-to-market for its new online sales channel.
"Inghams is a long term client of ours and has been using our reservation systems for ferry and flights continuously since 1995. Our aim is to provide an innovative service to our clients to enable them to respond quickly and cost effectively to difficult market conditions, such as those that tour operators and travel agents across the board are currently experiencing."

Alan Warburton
Managing Director, Pharos Datacom


Pharos Reports Positive Trend in Ferry Sector Spending

Pharos Pharos Datacom, the specialist in online reservations for the ferry sector, has released statistics on transaction volumes for its Xchange Reservations Service, which indicate an upward trend for ferry bookings via trade channels. The Xchange Service, which handles millions of transactions for ferry operators and their trade partners every year, is an ideal barometer of trade booking trends.

Xchange reservation statistics are monitored as travellers spend, in contrast to trends from industry publications, which show volumes at time of departure. This means we have an immediate indicator of how ferry passengers are spending, which is particularly relevant in todays economic climate.

Following a short survey and monitoring of statistics during the last four months of 2008, volumes for a significant number of Pharos's Xchange ferry reservation users show the year on year trend as very positive.

The results show an overall average increase of 32% in bookings compared to the same period in 2007. Furthermore, the increase in December alone was 30%, which is normally one of the weakest months of the passenger ferry calendar.

Announcing these results, Alan Warburton commented:

"The average booking value remained unchanged, confirming a very strong sector performance for our Xchange agents. The trend demonstrates the benefit of being online in the sector with an efficient booking service offering travellers choice and value."
A large part of the increase was on short sea routes, indicating signs of a dramatic switch in spending by many during the quiet season outside of the holiday period, and in adverse economic conditions.

"Our success underlines the Pharos results and reflects our own experience in our consumer, affiliate, club and other brands for reservations and breaks programs. This is an encouraging reversal of the general picture, showing the great value opportunities we can offer the traveller."

Nicholas Warren
Director of 'The Travel Market'

Red Funnel opens new sales channels with Pharos and Hogia

Red Funnel Isle of Wight specialists, Red Funnel, are the first ferry operator to exploit the exciting new online trade sales channel resulting from a strategic agreement between itself and Pharos Datacom, who provide a trade distribution service for ferry operators, and Hogia, the Finnish based ferry reservations systems' provider.

The collaboration between Red Funnel, Pharos and Hogia will deliver a link from Red Funnel's reservations system, supplied by Hogia, to the Pharos Xchange trade hub, enabling strategic trade partners such as tour operators, online travel agents, clubs/ membership organisations and dynamic packaging operators to seamlessly interact with Red Funnel's reservations system.

This new channel will complement Red Funnel's direct sales channel via its own Web site.

The successful co-operation on this project between Pharos and Hogia, both long established providers in the ferry industry, on the development of a connection between the BOOKIT reservations system and the Pharos trade distribution service, also opens up new selling opportunities for other Hogia BOOKIT users.

These users will now be able to take advantage of Pharos's versatile trade reservations service which currently facilitates ferry reservations between twenty five ferry operators and thirty resellers and intermediaries in Europe.

Jonathan Green, sales and marketing director for Red Funnel, said: "We have successfully collaborated with Pharos over many years in the area of passenger reservations and are confident the Xchange solution will enable us to significantly increase sales through strategic trade partner channels'.

Alan Warburton, managing director for Pharos Datacom, added:
"This collaboration, which takes advantage of our core expertise, brings us closer to achieving more integrated trading links, to the benefit of both ferry operators and their resellers through increased sales and improved market position."


Pharos announces connections to new ferry operators

As part of our program of continuous development to extend our ferry agent clients business, Pharos has completed integration in its Xchange service of three new ferry operators : Balearia, Corsica Sardinia Ferries and Grimaldi / GLD Lines. These routes are a substantial addition to the Xchange service, facilitating passenger reservations of these important western Mediterranean services. We predict a strong improvement in their bookings.


Norfolkline and Pharos to provide extended trade reservations

Norfolkline Pharos has reached agreement with Norfolkline to provide an extended trade reservation service for their recently introduced Irish Sea operation. In addition, as part of the significant project to increase markets for the passenger ferry activities, Pharos will facilitate an international distribution network link. Pharos has already collaborated very successfully with Norfolkline to develop trade reservations on its short sea route Dover - Dunkirk. Significant increases in reservation volumes are anticipated.


Holidaybreak Investment Pays Off

Holidaybreak A valued client of ours for ten years, Holidaybreak is a European specialist holiday group with market leading positions in the UK and other major European markets, with over 3m holidays sold last year. The Camping Division, providing self-catering holidays on high quality European camp-sites, includes the very well known Eurocamp and Keycamp brands : This is the focus of considerable investment to progressively renew and consolidate the IT infrastructure in all brands and country operations, while significantly increasing online presence.

We have been working in partnership with the Holidaybreak Camping Division team and technical partner Web Applications for over a year to implement the first stage of the project, which began live operation recently and is proving to be very successful during current exceptionally high booking volumes .

Our Xchange Service is used for ferry, Eurotunnel and secure payment transactions, ensuring that as the project progresses, their high rates of customer satisfaction and repeat bookings are maintained, underpinning the Division's business success. We're looking forward to the next ten years.


Travelsmith live on Xchange

Travelsmith Following development work together with their system supplier Travel Options and Pharos, Channel Islands specialist tour operator Travelsmith is now taking reservations via Xchange. Bookings are already brisk and Travelsmith are feeling the benefit of the successful online solution.


Dynamic packaging drives expansion

Mark Hammerton Travel Award winning Mark Hammerton Group comprises a number of tour operation and related activities such as Belle France walking and cycling holidays, publishing Alan Rogers Guides and Camping Cheque. Expansion has led to investment in new booking facilities for tours consisting of transport, camp sites, accommodation and other components to be reserved online.

Utilising the Xchange Service for dynamic packaging ensures complete tours are booked and paid for instantly while preserving the flexibility essential to the high quality service their customers expect.

Significant further expansion of business is predicted as online tour bookings accelerate call centre volumes.


Comtec launch Ferry, Eurotunnel and Eurostar bookings link

Comtec Leading leisure travel technology supplier Comtec will offer booking capability to its travel agent and tour operator customer base through system integration with our Xchange Service.

Since acquiring tour operator system supplier Travelink last year, Comtec has developed the Travelink platform to offer enhanced booking capabilities to both its traditional travel agent and new tour operator customers, including a range of new suppliers and advanced booking services such as dynamic packaging.

Commenting, Ed Whiting, Product Director at Comtec, said “Comtec’s customers require the capability to search and book every kind of travel product, efficiently and cost-effectively. The addition of Ferry, Eurotunnel and Eurostar booking capability further enhances the range of travel products bookable via Comtec's travel agent and tour operator selling systems and complements our existing holiday, flights, beds and essentials booking platform.”

Alan Warburton of Pharos added “Our partnership with Comtec makes it easy for travel companies to make transport only bookings and to package ferry, Eurotunnel and Eurostar with other travel components. Productivity is key to the success of travel organisations and Pharos' integration within Comtec's travel selling systems ensures Ferry, Eurotunnel and Eurostar booking services are now easily accessible to Comtec's customers”.


DFDS Seaways - distribution boost from trade connection

DFDS Seaways DFDS is the very well known Danish ferry operator with 7 passenger routes linking the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Holland. DFDS offers a variety of products including Mini Cruises and Conferences in addition to leisure travel reservations.

Until recently online distribution depended on their Web sites, but there was a strong need for an integrated trade reservation service to complement this channel, and Pharos was awarded the contract to provide the vital trade connection, which went live in autumn last year.

This connection allows existing Unicorn agents in the UK to connect via our Xchange Service. In addition Xchange makes interfacing via XML easy, further boosting DFDS distribution by means of integrated trading with partners both in the UK and overseas. So online agents, tour operators, dynamic packagers, intermediaries and travel networks of all types can now access the operators’ reservatiosn system via Web Services easily and cost effectively, ensuring maximum exposure to the travel trade for DFDS.

DFDS are increasing business from all sectors due to the new channel with more bookings being taken automatically by far more agents than previously.


Online ferry agent bookings growing at 30% per year

Agents making online ferry bookings have grown their business by 30% on average for the last three years according to Pharos who provide a one-stop ferry industry reservation service to the trade.

Alan Warburton says their Xchange service offers agents low cost bookings with more than 12 ferry operators through a specially designed online system, enabling agents to provide travellers with a powerful, easy to use system offering a wide choice of routes and operators. The latest features are being released at the forthcoming Travel Technology Show.

With 250,000 bookings per year, Xchange has rapidly established itself as a low cost, high growth trade service. Further expansion of the service is planned.

Set against static ferry industry performance this proves that a well-designed system can offer agents selling online an attractive business development opportunity.

Pharos’ Xchange, the trade hub is the key, which ferry operators have also found attractive as an efficient distribution link to agents : Three operators have connected to the service during the last year to provide online trade links, further increasing the attractiveness of Xchange to agents by giving them a more powerful one-stop network for their users.

Xchange provides trade reservation services for rail, ferries, hotels and secure payments for tour operators, dynamic packagers, intermediaries, distribution networks, general sales agents, membership organisations and online retail agents


Direct Ferries doubles success

Direct Ferries Twice the Internet business volume is the experience of client Direct Ferries since going live with our Xchange Ferry reservation service last year. Matt Davies at Direct Ferries quotes halving their look-to-book ratio since going live with Xchange, which has also proved to be a reliable business-critical service for them with good support from Pharos.

This means for the same number of visitors their business volumes have doubled, demonstrating the dramatic impact a good system makes to online business success.

Direct Ferries has a well deserved reputation for their user-friendly sites, working in 10 languages and many European countries, giving them extensive international coverage as a major player in online ferry reservations ranging from the Baltic routes to the Mediterranean.

Given their market position, now underpinned by their online system, Direct Ferries is expected to grow briskly.


Driveline Europe goes live

Driveline Our client Driveline has made a significant investment in changing systems to give themselves the best available tour operator technology, and needless to say they chose Pharos’ Xchange as the service for ferry bookings so that online users get prompt, efficient customer service.

The new system provided by our partner RWA has recently started live service, including package holidays based on ferry crossings.

Dean Brazier at Driveline, a client of Pharos going back a decade, is now widening their ferry operator partners to maximise markets for their motoring breaks, themed holidays, luxury breaks, Disneyland packages and others facilitated by the powerful system. This flexibility and market coverage will ensure their online sales grow to capitalise fully on the well established brand and investment in technology.


Norfolkline Sails away with Unicorn

Norfolkline Competition for passenger ferry business is hotting up on the Dover routes with the automation of trade online bookings by Norfolkline.

Chris Newey, Norfolkline's Passenger Marketing Manager described the move. 'Due to significant demand from our strategic partners in late 2004, we decided to offer Unicorn trade bookings for tour operators, online agents and intermediaries. The key was to be ready for the current season booking period when 2005 takes off. We need to compete for trade business and this is a vital booking channel'

Norfolkline currently operate 20 daily ferry crossings and in 2005/6 are introducing 3 new state of the art ferries designed specifically for the route, focussed entirely on the motorist. They are part of the AP Moller Maersk Group, the largest shipping company in the world and in 2004 we were voted ‘Best European Crossing Operator’ by readers of the Daily & Sunday Telegraph and the ‘Leading Cross Channel Operator’ by the Guardian & Observer.

Choosing Pharos as their partner and our Xchange Service for booking facilities was an important decision which proved to be a great success. Although the project only began in October, we made their Unicorn link live ahead of schedule before Christmas, resulting in many bookings in double quick time before the New Year. Lloyd Middleton, Norfolkline's Corporate E-commerce Manger hailed our service a great success and extremely satisfactory. The project is also a world first - the very first TTI XML ferries message standard implementation !


The Travel Market leads the way

The Travel Market Following a wide ranging review in consultation with Pharos, The Travel Market is well advanced in the development of a comprehensive E-business program. The Travel Market is the well known and established specialist ferry agent and tour operator based in Dover. Over years they have built their Ferry Travel Club, joint marketing with a number of travel publications, partnered ferry operators and provided inclusive tours in Europe.

The time has arrived to substantially improve online operations, moving forward with an ambitious E-business venture using Xchange, associated E-commerce marketing and enhanced systems. Nicholas Warren, Sales and Marketing Director, says he is confident that success will prove the value of the investments in new technology with Pharos as partner, leading to expansion in all sectors of operations.


International Rail on track

Award winning Mark Hammerton Group comprises a number of tour operation and related activities such as Belle France walking and cycling holidays, publishing Alan Rogers Guides and Camping Cheque. Expansion has led to investment in new booking facilities for tours consisting of transport, camp sites, accommodation and other components to be reserved online.

Utilising the Xchange Service for dynamic packaging ensures complete tours are booked and paid for instantly while preserving the flexibility essential to the high quality service their customers expect.

Significant further expansion of business is predicted as online tour bookings accelerate call centre volumes.


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