Flight Centre Limited boosts Internet and IT Operations

Flight Centre Limited has secured a state-of-the-art online booking system for its websites after acquiring an internet travel business and software development team.

And the company has also strengthened its overall IT operations with the launch of several new projects designed to enhance productivity in its stores and support areas.

Flight Centre Limited’s acquisition includes:

  • travelthere.com, currently Australia’s seventh most visited travel agency website
  • An associated software development operation with an online booking system that can be expanded and incorporated into Flight Centre Limited’s websites.

Travelthere.com will continue as a standalone web-only business, while the software development team will work with Flight Centre Limited e-commerce teams to upgrade the popular flightcentre.com.au website and other branded sites.

The development team will also work to integrate the software platform into Flight Centre Limited’s Australian and New Zealand retail shops to substantially enhance productivity in-store. This integration will create a one-stop shop for consultants by bringing key travel products together in a single location and system.

Flight Centre Limited chief executive officer Shane Flynn said the addition of travelthere.com and its online booking system, coupled with the company’s ongoing success with its bricks and mortar model, represented another step towards creating a comprehensive multi channel distribution system.

He said the acquisition and other new IT initiatives would enhance the company’s “clicks and mortar” sales strategy.

“Our premier website, flightcentre.com.au, is the number one travel agency site in Australia and generates in excess of 700,000 visits a month, despite not having easy-to-use online booking facilities and a minimal marketing spend,” Mr Flynn said.

“This acquisition has given us another popular website in travelthere.com and the software and expertise required to in future offer flightcentre.com.au customers the ability to book airfares, accommodation, car hire, insurance and other travel needs easily online.

“Our new booking system will list all available airfares on the major domestic carriers in a single search and will allow customers to choose the fare which best suits their needs without having to shop around on a multitude of airline or accommodation websites.

“This means we will offer a vastly improved service to our customers who want to organise their travel online or outside normal work hours.”

Flight Centre Limited and travelthere.com’s software development team have worked together since May, with Flight Centre’s Escape Travel brand successfully trialing an online domestic air booking system on its website for the past three months.

The acquisition means Flight Centre Limited now owns three of Australia’s most popular travel websites – www.flightcentre.com.au, www.travelthere.com and www.escapetravel.com.au – plus the popular online hotel booking service www.quickbeds.com.

Another site owned by Flight Centre Limited, www.studentflights.com.au, is ranked in Australia’s top 20 travel websites.

The company also continues to invest in major IT projects. Projects completed recently by Flight Centre Limited in Australia include:

  • An improved system for domestic and international ticketing.
  • A “Look and Book” system for consultants that lists all available domestic airfares on one screen and therefore eliminates the need for time-consuming searches.

Work is also underway on international airfare databases in Australia and the UK.

Flight Centre Limited global product general manager Paul Scurrah said the IT projects had been designed to enhance productivity and access to travel product.

“We have traditionally adopted a sensible approach to the internet and IT and this approach has been justified, as evidenced by our success in making flightcentre.com.au profitable and Australia’s most popular travel agency site,” he said.

“We believe now is the ideal time to take our internet operations and IT systems to the next level in the retail and corporate travel operations within Australia and overseas.

“Our new projects are geared towards increasing productivity in our shops and support areas, enhancing the service we offer to our customers around-the-clock and increasing the range of product that is immediately available for delivery to our clients.”

The purchase price for travelthere.com is payable in two tranches of $2.5 million each.

The first payment is for the business assets, including intellectual property in the software, while the second will apply if future development benchmarks are met.

Key employees, including travelthere.com owner and lead developer Peter Biedak, have been retained and employed by Flight Centre Limited.