Ontario overhauling Tourism ministry Web site

In a nod to the rapidly growing e-tourism market, Ontario’s Tourism, Culture and Recreation Ministry announced Tuesday that it is investing $16.2 million in a fully integrated visitor information system.

The Tourism Consumer Information Service (TCIS) – which is being designed and built by EDS Canada Inc. – will include a call centre, a customer service database and business-to-business and business-to-customer Web sites, plus a Web-integrated call centre that EDS will operate for three years. As well as offering customzied information to visitors, the system will provide tourism operators with information about customer preferences and opportunities for permission-based marketing.

Ray Berry, EDS’s director for the tourism project, said his firm’s infrastructure and application architects are working closely to pull together the IBM WebSphere products that power the Internet side of the TCIS, and the PeopleSoft CRM products that will drive the call centre. Although the ministry operates several Web sites, he said they will be totally replaced by the new system.

“The current sites are fairly flat, I would say, but this (new) one will be very dynamic. (It will have) the opportunity for the Ministry to update it at will through a content management system. Also, the partners will have the capability to access information through a partners’ portal and actually update listings – like accommodation or events – that are part of their business,” Berry said.

Ministry staff is not doing any of the technical work on this project Berry said, but they are testing demos, and participating as a partner during the process.

EDS’s end-to-end solution – which is set to launch this spring – is designed to flow from a marketing strategy to the front end, through the revamped Web site, to the supporting call centre at the back end, said George Paul, the company’s executive vice-president in charge of Ontario public sector projects.

“We’re trying to use ‘intuitive tools’ as much as possible to help people that go onto the Web site to customize the information and the output to their personal preferences. So we’ve got things like a trip planner, and a customzied search engine. It says ‘What are your interests’ and…it can provide you all kinds of ways to realize your interests,” Paul said.

This initiative is not powered by new technology, so much as an inventive reuse and integration of existing pieces, Paul said. He also give the government full marks for developing the concept and a comprehensive RFP.

“In some ways it’s really a fully integrated CRM system. . . . This is sort of getting close to the nirvana of client-relationship management that we are all striving for. With the application of the Internet to a real business opportunity it’s got a lot of good mixes. I would say this is a great model for the future,” Paul said.

Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism is currently at http://www.tourism.gov.on.ca/english/.

EDS Canada is at http://www.eds.com/canada/ca_about.shtml.