Fairmont Web upgrade is platform for growth

With historic properties like the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa and The Empress in Victoria, many of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ properties conjure images of days gone by. However, with a new Web platform set to come online in September Fairmont is also focused firmly on the future.

The company has had its current Web platform since 2000, launched shortly after Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts acquired Fairmont in 1999. David Doucette, Fairmont’s director of Internet strategy, said the 2000 redesign took the site from a “glorified brochure” to a full e-commerce site.

At the same time new standalone internal systems were developed, including a guest data warehouse, campaign management tools, e-mail tools, and activity booking modules for golf, spa, tennis and restaurant reservations at Fairmont properties.

Over the years, Doucette said the Web site has become an increasingly important channel for Fairmont, and is often the first point of contact people have with the brand. The site is now exceeding one million unique visits per month, up 50 per cent from the year before, and revenue from the Web channel now accounts for 12 per cent of Fairmont’s booked revenue, up from just three per cent in 2003.

“Without making investments we’d have had to really put duct tape on the current platform to not have things collapse on us,” said Doucette. “It wasn’t as stable and scaleable as we needed it to be.”

Another factor in the upgrade, said Doucette, was the desire to integrate some of their internal systems, such as the golf and restaurant reservation systems, into the Web platform.

Fairmont would like guests to be able to book a tee time at the Fairmont-owned course at the same time they book their guest room, and Doucette said that integration would have been difficult to do with the old platform.

Fairmont turned to Navantis, a Toronto-based systems integrator, and decided to migrate from an Oracle/Unix environment to a customized Microsoft .Net platform built by Navantis.

Doucette said one of the motivators in that decision was that it would allow for easier integration with Fairmont’s other systems, which are generally Microsoft-based. Support is also anticipated to be easier going forward.

“We have a lot of Microsoft certified staff within our technology team, so rather than just having two or three people that would be able to support the platform…support increases exponentially,” said Doucette.

Fairmont and Navantis are currently migrating all of the old content onto the new system, with the goal of launching the new site by the end of September.

But Jason Martin, Navantis’ president, said the new Web platform is really just the first step.

It’s the base from which Fairmont can more easily launch new Web-based applications and services in the future. “It doesn’t necessarily put a new face on Fairmont just yet, but it sets the stage for them to be a much more agile Fairmont.com underneath the hood,” said Martin.

Architecturally, Martin said Navantis has taken a service-oriented approach to the Web platform, designing a loosely coupled architecture making heavy use of XML to allow for an easier move to more Web 2.0 services down the road.

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