Tourism Web site juiced for travel rush

A complete overhaul of New Brunswick’s Department of Tourism and Parks Web site is expected to attract visitors to the site – and the province.

The revamped site is the public entry gateway to a behind-the-scenes “advanced tourism management platform” dubbed MyTravelHost – based on the Microsoft Solution for Internet Business.

The Department of Tourism deployed the new platform with the help of T4G Ltd, an IT services company and Microsoft Gold certified partner with offices in Toronto, St. John and Halifax.

Since its implementation, the solution – among other things – has dramatically enhanced data access and delivery capabilities, according to Carol Alderice, manager, Web Market Development, New Brunswick Tourism and Parks.

She said the previous Web site was very user-unfriendly. “People had a hard time finding things, including myself, when I first started.” The department, she said sought to rectify that and did a lot of research into features that visitors to the site would find attractive and appealing.

Based on this investigation, several changes were introduced including a complete re-engineering of the search functionality to make it easier for visitors to find things, Alderice said.

According to T4G the hallmark of the MyTravelHost platform is seamless blending of traveler data with comprehensive and accurate information on the province’s tourism offerings.

The platform consolidates and centralizes all customer and product data from Tourism New Brunswick in one location, said Patrick Mason, director, Business Development, Tourism at T4G. This information, he said, was previously spread across a number of different systems and it was limiting what they could do.”

In addition, he said, MyTravelHost allows for multi-channel delivery of information – call centre or online.

All this translates into better service on the part of the department, and greater awareness of products and services on the part of customers, Mason said.

Centralizing information, he said, also helps to reduce operational costs as well as the labour expended on older, disparate systems. “The return (on investment) is the money you save or don’t spend on the old system. And then there is the more nebulous, ‘How much more do you make because you can provide better customer service and drive revenue in new ways?'” Mason says other applications can be built on top of MyTravelHost, which he describes as a base platform of functionality.

The new platform, he says, is not just about selling stuff better, but also about “selling new stuff or stuff that does not exist yet.” For instance, he said, MTravelHost’s capabilities could be offered to tour operators in the province, or used to provide small Bed and Breakfast outfits with a hosted Web presence.

Alderice said feedback on the new site features has been exceptional. She cited an e-mail received from New Yorker, Louis Baudry, who stated, “I am considering moving to New Brunswick in a few months. I came across your Web page searching for tourist related information. Your Web page is one of the best officially sponsored tourist pages I have ever seen in my life.”

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the province with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion and employing more than 33,000, according to generalized reports based on last year’s provincial annual report.

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