With airlines and other travel industry businesses facing new challenges as a result of ever increasing operational costs and the increased competition of the Internet age, the ability to provide additional services to customers that generate ancillary income is enticing.
ACE Insurance has the ability to support this methodology through the design of their system which administers its travel insurance cover.
This system integrates easily with third parties, such as airlines, to provide customers with easy-to-buy insurance. In so doing, says Ross Waterford, ACE Insurance consumer lines manager, travellers can purchase insurance seamlessly while booking their travel and accommodation online.
He notes that for travellers, and those who book their travel plans, insurance is considered an essential service which must be in place to mitigate risk.
“It is necessary to have some cover to protect against the implications of a medical emergency and baggage pilferage, which can cost hundreds of thousands of rands,” he says.
Driven by a smart IT system, ACE Insurance has taken an innovative new approach to the market which also expands the services which a travel agent, airline or other operator can bring to market.
“The travel industry invests a premium into its ability to execute efficient business models. That’s what we’ve done in designing effective distribution for our travel insurance solution,” he says.
Designed to provide leisure travellers with easy-to-access travel insurance cover, the ACE travel insurance product can be resold and repackaged by any airlines, retailers, hotel groups or other channel partners.
According to Waterford, the ability to do so rests in the robust design of the company’s IT systems.
“These systems allow for rapid and easy integration into the systems of partners and associates, to the extent that it is possible for the channel to completely ‘white label’, or embed our offering and provide it to their customers,” he explains.
Providing an insight into the broader environment which informs this approach to delivering its travel products to market, Waterford notes that the travel industry in particular is under pressure with changing business models and increased competition.
“On the one hand, there is a big shift towards online systems, including online bookings and the related management of travel plans. On the other hand, rising fuel and other operational costs, and increased competition, means pressure on margins.”
The management of online booking systems is complex and costly; airlines today have become e-businesses out of necessity.
It is for these reasons, he says, that the ability to easily provide additional services integrated into the partners booking path becomes particularly attractive to airlines in particular.
“While we can interface with the web systems of any organisation, airlines are an obvious fit. With ACE Insurance, the airline can provide not only the transport service, but also travel insurance.
"The customer benefits from the convenience of a single bill and the ability to instantly buy travel insurance from a single internet location without sifting through cumbersome interfaces routing the client from one web page to the next ,” he says.
Particular attention was focused on ensuring compatibility with the popular Global Distribution Systems used in the travel industry.
“Ease of integration is assured with Navitaire and Amadeus, while the system is based on XML which is an IT industry standard,” he notes.
“By providing this service, an ancillary revenue line is opened for the airline. Further value is added to travellers who no longer have to search for suitable insurance cover and the design of the system is such that IT managers won’t have any difficulty in integrating the ACE system into their own booking and billing systems,” Waterford concludes.