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RailAgent.com RevampsApril 30, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent
Site undergoes redesign in an effort to draw agents' attention
says more than 10,000 travel agencies in the
company is also aware that agents don't book rail that often. "Rail,
unfortunately, isn't something agents sell on a day-to-day basis, so anything
we can do to make it easier, we will do," says Charles de Gaspe Beaubien,
vice president of sales and marketing for the company. And so, RailAgent.com late last month
unveiled a complete redesign of its web site, making it easier to use with
enhanced content, trip-planning tools, detailed commission reporting and
interactive country and route maps. Further improvements will debut through the
summer. Agents can now book itineraries on the Eurostar and Via Rail
Canada at the new site
New Tutorials, Maps
new site employs many elements of Web 2.0, a technology term used to describe
web site features that encourage user interaction. This week, for example,
RailAgent's web site will introduce online booking tutorials with voiceovers,
as well as maps for its European routes that allow agents to book tickets
directly from them.
"This is a 100 percent redesign," de Gaspe
Beaubien says. "Now there are a lot more content images and better browser
compatibility. The whole project has been about a year in the making."
De Gaspe Beaubien says the new web site always is a work in
progress, as one of the new additions to the site is a "Contact Us"
form where agents can choose a subject and ask a question or give feedback.
"It gives me a feel of what agents are struggling with and what they're
enjoying," he says.
In fact, the addition of this feature showed its usefulness
within the first few days of its debut. At the request of users, in its first
week RailAgent.com altered
the navigation on the left-hand side of the site and changed the registration
process. "We found the original registration process was confusing mostly
for IATA agents, because their profiles are pre-loaded," de Gaspe Beaubien
says. "The registration now asks for an e-mail and password to track
bookings at the agency level, not at the agent level. It adds a level of
Itinerary Tool, More Products
Other features include a rail-planning tool that helps
agents recommend the best combination of rail tickets and passes, which are
based on either a specific itinerary or a desired route. In addition to its
existing Amtrak, Britrail, Eurail and Japan Rail inventory, RailAgent.com also now has
access to such global rail products as Eurostar, Spanish Rail, Rail
"One of the biggest things we added was the ability to
show rail connections," de Gaspe Beaubien says. "Passes are
important, but agents also want the most rail connectivity." The
rail-planning tool comes back with live inventory. "What we did this year
on the back end is get more connections directly with the railroad, so agents
have access to the best prices," he adds.
The site offers agent commissions; rates vary based on the
product booked. Agents can click on the "My Commissions" portion of
the site to see the rates on the web site's inventory. Commissions also vary
based on agreements with different consortia.