New Brunswick has been included on the Canadian map since 1867, but its Department of Tourism and Parks wants to put the Maritime province on the technology map with its new tourism customer care

and management platform.

The department of tourism and parks has created an enhanced Web site for travelers using T4G Ltd.‘s platform, MyTravelHost, built with Microsoft technology. The site serves as a centre for information about travelling to and in New Brunswick, according to Mark Rechsteiner, vice-president of development at T4G.

“”It’s the centralization of all information, making it available to multiple channels — the visitor, the information centre, the operator and the call centre,”” he said, noting that all information can be reflected in real time.

Each operator of a business featured on the site is able to make changes to online information, such as pricing or specials, on his or her own PC, without having to notify the tourism authority. However, the department locks operators out of some information (such as star ratings) or requires the new information to go through a QA process before it goes live.

With the success of online travel booking sites such as Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, New Brunswick’s deputy minister of tourism and parks Bill Thompson said that the tourism industry has to step up in order to handle how people want to plan and book travel.

“”There’s no investment in equipment on the part of the operator,”” said Thompson, except for a computer with Internet access. This also cuts down on training costs, he said. “”What we needed was a system to stay on the radar screen with a look and feel that’s as good as anyplace else on the Web.””

Thirty-three thousand people work in the tourism industry in New Brunswick, and the province hosts 1.4 million visitors annually. The challenge, Thompson said, is that an estimated 90 per cent of the operators of businesses related to tourism in the province are mom-and-pop shops.

“”They might employ 40 people in the summer, but they don’t have the money to compete with the Fairmonts and the Deltas. A bed and breakfast that generates $40,000-or-$50,000 dollars a year in revenue has to be careful where it spends its money,”” he said.

Dave Hyndman, director of business development at T4G’s Stratford, PEI office, said that the technical savvy of some of the more senior operators was a pleasant surprise. While there will be an education process for some of the participants, Hyndman said that most are ready to get on board with the site.

One feature expected to be invaluable to both the department and operators is the inclusion of real time analytics. This enables users to determine what areas are generating the most interest from the site’s visitors and better evaluate peak travelling times.

“”Analytics helps operators make informed decisions and close the loop from marketing to sales,”” Rechsteiner said.

Owen Sagness, executive director of the public sector division at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said that New Brunswick’s travel initiative is a good example of using technology to drive economic development.

“”Canada is a leader globally, and New Brunswick is a leader within Canada,”” Sagness said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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