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Online bookings focus for tour operators

WESTERN Australian tourism operators are increasingly looking at online strategies to attract business during the downturn.

A survey undertaken by Perth-based leisure technology firm V3 of more than 1,000 suppliers - including hotels, accommodation providers and tour companies - found that more than three-quarters of respondents would like to be bookable online.

The company canvassed feedback from the WA tourism industry as it prepares to launch its online booking exchange through westernaustralia.com, after winning a tender with Tourism WA late last month.

V3 chief executive and former Western Australian Tourism Commission chief executive, Shane Crockett, said operators were looking to market their product smarter and more cost effectively in the current climate.

"Smaller operators are very conscious that this is a cost-effective way of marketing for them," Mr Crockett said. "They're attuned to the fact that they can get many points on distribution and can do so very cheaply."

Under the Tourism WA contract, V3 will supply its technology for the creation of an open booking exchange, linking consumers with distributors from whom they can buy product.

The open booking exchange allows travel distributors, including travel agents, booking websites and government bodies, to access and book inventory from hotels, boutique accommodation providers, tour operators and attractions.

Tourism businesses have a number of ways to become e-commerce enabled through the exchange, either through an existing online reservation system or through an existing wholesaler linked to the exchange.

Discover West Holidays group managing director Nathan Harding said the open exchange allowed smaller and more budget operators to have online booking capabilities at low cost.

"Operators are looking at all their options, and online is a sensible option," he said.

Mr Harding said Discover West would plug into the booking exchange to access inventory, and will also make its inventory available through westernaustralia.com.

"Because of how much inventory we already have, we'll be the biggest provider of rooms and inventory to the exchange from WA," he said.

According to Tourism WA, the proportion of WA tourism product currently bookable in real time is relatively low.

The Tourism WA contract came just one month after V3 announced that Air New Zealand had bought a cornerstone shareholding in the company.

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