Digitalisation is crucial if ticketing and reservations systems are to enhance the passenger experience
Digitalisation and elevating the passenger experience are the main factors transforming ticketing and reservation systems.
Carus director of sales EMEA John Bertell says “Ferry travel as a concept is now forced to change, to modernise and to digitalise”. He says this is one of the major trends Carus is working on.
He explains “We believe the passenger experience through the whole journey must change to accommodate younger and modern customer groups who have grown up travelling through airports, on planes and on cruise ships. Travelling by ferry must be much more attractive, and can be much better, than travelling on other modes.
“But the digitalised part of the travel must be more fluent, it must stick together, to make people comfortable planning their travel the ferry way. From making the reservation, travelling to the port, enjoying the scenic views from the ferry terminals and the services provided there, to the onboard experience, must be connected through the customers’ most frequently used tool, their telephone.”
He adds “Making your booking through it, choosing upgrade options, ordering cafe latte while waiting in the port as well as pre-booking the onboard cinema, boarding the vessel, watching movies from your phone on the cabin TV and ordering drinks while sitting at your favorite table, all of the services that you as guest on board would like to enjoy, all of that should be just a swipe away.”
To better understand millennials, Carus joined up with the Drexel University in Philadelphia to conduct a study and gain insights into what they expect and want to experience.
Integration: next steps
Mr Bertell explained that developing the Carus Travel App is one step towards this vision. It can be tailor made for different audiences and includes features such as departure information related to the passenger’s planned trip, delays and important announcments, itineraries, events, driving instructions and maps.
Carus continues to work on the platform to provide an integrated onboard solution that ties marketing, sales and customer services together. Mr Bertell says “This is the next step to provide ferry operators with the platform enabling them to achieve this.
Digitalisation is not just being applied to the passenger side of ferry reservations. The digital transformation of freight flows is gaining momentum.
Mr Bertell explains “Many ferry operators rely on a steady revenue stream from their freight operations, but very little has been invested in technology for this side of the operation in the past decades. Many manual and paper-based tasks are today necessary to support the freight sales, management and operation.”
He points out that even smaller ferry operations have are now digitalising their freight process. Carus has automated the port operations of two smaller ferry operations in Denmark, Samsoe Rederi and Laesoe Line.
Mr Bertell says “Automatic weighing stations, video or laser-based measurement solutions, all connected by freight unit, vehicle recognition, classification solutions and ANPR are being developed and will be part of our standard solution in the very near future.”
Speaking about recent clients, Mr Bertell says “One of our latest clients is the new Icelandic operator of the ferry line between the Icelandic mainland and the Westman Island (Vestmannaeyjar). Being part of a new operation starting from scratch is always exciting, the system setup becomes just one part of setting up an operation.”
For the new Herjolfur line, Carus installed its latest version of an ecommerce solution designed for telephone use, with a responsive design that can scale up to a tablet, laptop or a desktop.
Using digitalisation to streamline applications and enhance customer experience has also been a major focus for E-Dea Transport Technology. Its chief commercial officer Marco Pavoncelli says “We have developed and implemented several measures to significantly improve the passengers’ experience, through completely new digital user experience. The rules of passengers’ engagement have now changed. Digital transformation is changing every aspect of the ferry business landscape.”
Therefore, E-Dea is supplying its systems on the Cloud rather than traditional on-premise installation. All its solutions can now be provided as a software as a service on Oracle Cloud or Amazon AWS.
Mr Pavoncelli says “Cloud technology grants increased flexibility with users that can scale services to fit their needs, reduce time to market for software upgrades and new releases. It also allows the customer to avoid the unnecessary burden of handling the hardware, the software and related IT activities, thus focusing its resources only on commercial and operational activities with higher added value.”
E-Dea’s next-generation R5 platform will represent a “major reorganisation of functionalities, technology and workflows based on the know-how and lessons learned by E-Dea during the last 20 years of continuous developments and close co-operation with the largest ferry companies worldwide,” says Mr Pavoncelli.
“We foresee a disruptive impact in the whole transportation industry of new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. We are researching and developing to leverage such technologies into our next R5 platform, so that our customers can benefit from auto-learning features for operations automation and revenue optimisation.”
He adds “Knowing how likely a passenger is going to act, and under which circumstances, is the cornerstone of propensity modelling. Using propensity models enables travel retailers to focus their efforts on the passengers where they generate a meaningful change in behavior.”
Mr Pavoncelli sums up “A common distinctive factor of ferry companies located in different parts of the world is the rather significant upgrade of their current tonnage with new ships. In this direction there is a sound interest in evaluating the replacement of their legacy IT systems with off the shelf alternatives provided by experienced IT providers. Markets are becoming more and more competitive. Pricing is an important factor but not the only one. Passengers expect high-quality services, modern ships and an overall relaxing passengers’ experience, from the time of the booking to the moment they disembark.”
The themes seen within the passenger side of operations can also be seen within freight. Mr Pavoncelli says “In the freight segment there is a growing demand for automation and tracking technology to improve operational efficiency and improve security. In addition to this the freight operators are looking at revenue management capabilities to improve income and customer relationships.”
A seamless travel experience
Hogia also sees boosting customer experience as crucial to ticketing and reservation systems. Hogia Ferry Systems managing director Niclas Blomstrom says “Customers expect a seamless travel experience. They expect a simple intuitive booking process, and if they are a foot passenger, they expect to be able to book public transport to and from the port. They expect to be kept informed before, during and after their journey about any delays, road congestion leading to the port etc and they expect to find that information on their preferred channel, be that departure boards, social media, applications on the website, or direct to their phones. When they get to the port, they often expect self-service check-in or mobile check-in as with air travel – even for cars using ANPR and self-service gates.
“These expectations are great for the operators, because although they demand investment in hardware, new real-time passenger information systems etc, they also allow their operational staff to focus on customer service, eg helping the customers with self-service check-in and gates instead of doing the manual work. Customer experience has been a buzz word for a while now and a seamless travel experience can mean a good Trip Advisor review, a nice comment on Facebook, a picture tweeted or a reply to a post travel email praising the company for their enjoyable journey”
Last year Hogia signed contracts with three operators who “caused us to rethink how we could improve how we deal with cabins and cruises”. The company now have a very user-friendly feature for assigning cabins. A deck plan maps out the cabins and bookings can be dragged and dropped and assigned “really simply”, grouped, organised, and closed or opened for bookings via the same deck plan. Hogia also has a new cruise pattern register to make it simpler to define the routes which make up a cruise, its schedule and its description.
One of its new customers Eckerö Linjen had a trying issue that needed solving, that of booking connecting bus services from regions in and around Stockholm to their port in Grisslehamn. Eckerö Linjen offers a bus service to 40% of their passengers with 13,000 departures incorporating 11 routes.
Mr Blomstrom says “They hadn’t found a satisfactory solution for this, which was one of the motivating factors for looking for a new system and ultimately choosing BOOKIT. Eckerö Linjen now have complete set-up for bus booking with bus companies, bus lines, bus stops, specific pricing etc and these can then be connected to appropriate ferry departures. This is obviously great for the customers, but as importantly improves the operational side of bringing passengers to their ship smoothly and simply.”
Hogia is a Microsoft Gold partner and using Microsoft platforms and tools it has invested in a cloud framework called Hogia Star. This will enable all Hogia companies including Hogia Ferry Systems to begin building standard products and modules on this cloud-based platform. “In the long term this will allow for faster development time, flexible modules which can be used across different products, and from a customer point of view they will get continuous updates and less server maintenance as more and more elements become cloud based,” says Mr Blomstrom.
Enter machine learning
Versonix also uses digitalisation to boost its reservation and ticketing systems. A new solution it offers is machine learning driven revenue management. It has also integrated its Seaware reservations platform with the global Salesforce CRM system and has added a mobile phone browser version.
Versonix Corporation launched its Seaware analytics solution last year, which allows cruise and ferry operators to analyse ticketing reservations data.
The system uses personalised dashboards depending on who is using them. Different dashboards are created for management, executives and analysts using Tableau data visualisation tool.
Seaware has been has been impemented at Virgin Voyages, Lindblad Expeditions and Atlantis Events.
Versonix president Victor Velton told Passenger Ship Technology potential future developments include native IOS and Android applications, complete transition to Java and using AI in revenue management.
He says that main trends include customised cruise itineraries and mobile applications.