says more than 10,000 travel agencies in the
New Tutorials, Maps
RailAgent.com's 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.