Top travel firms adopt IP-based booking system

High-street travel agents Thomas Cook and Going Places are among the early adopters of a new booking and information network for...

High-street travel agents Thomas Cook and Going Places are among the early adopters of a new booking and information network for travel agencies launched last week by Energis

Antony Adshead

The Energis Travel Network is a portfolio of services being offered via an IP-based extranet to which tour operators can connect for a flat annual fee.

The travel trade has relied until now on Viewdata systems based on X.25 technology to provide communications between agencies and travel operators.

Thomas Cook IT director Neil Chinnery said, "X.25 is an ageing technology and there are strategic goals we wish to achieve which cannot be done over an X.25 network, such as opening up better access to information or an intranet. There are no cost savings as such - we see the adoption of an IP network as an enabling technology for future ventures."

Security will be managed by Cisco and Nokia firewalls. Energis will assess extranet access on a case-by-case basis.

Mark Harris, Energis business manager for the travel industry, said, "We're providing a very controlled community of interest. When a travel agent asks for connection into the network, we will ask which tour operators they want to communicate with and then assess whether that connection is mutually required. Only in those cases will we enable connectivity through the firewall."

Energis will continue to operate its Viewdata gateway so travel companies can continue to access it, allowing migration to the IP-based service at their own pace.

Harris said, "We will fully emulate Viewdata operations using something called Session Server. If you type in, for example, 'AIR' on a Viewdata screen it will be seen as that mnemonic and will try to connect you to the Airtours home."

Energis is also developing a service that will offer remote dial-up access to the Energis Travel Network and also direct access to Energis' other e-business services.

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