17 June 2014
AFerry.co.uk's Head of Sales Kirsty Laifa was recently interviewed by Travel Daily - read the transcript of her interview here!
Ferry travel might not always spring to mind as a money earner, but booking portals like AFerry's are hoping to make it simpler to help agents get their share of the market. We spoke to the site's Kirsty Laifa to find out more.
AFerry recently launched a trade website, why did you decide to launch this?
Yes, the travel trade has quite a tough job having to link independently to each ferry company at present, all with differing agent portals for example and, we have been told, a nightmare to be honest - for the volumes and returns etc. Thomas Cook themselves used to work this way however three years ago AFerry.co.uk developed a system that enabled them to book all companies on one platform AND added all our other European routes. They are in their fourth year of use on A to B bookings with this and they say it works well. It is much easier as one system, one contact and one accounting system too! Now Aferryagent is there for any agent who wants to sign up and use without having to be a large player, so it is great for independents as well.
What functions and resources are available on the site for the trade?
It's a booking platform, simple as that. It books all the ferries in one place, you can compare across operators; pick from more than 110 operators and more than 1,500 routes - so plenty to go at. It is a one stop shop for ferries ex-UK and it has all the European routes as well so for example if you are booking holidays to Greece, you can book all the ferries for your client. It is a good add-on tool. The site also has a feed of all the (ever-changing) special offers the ferry companies come up with so the agents can get the best deals 24/7. It's easy to use, you look, you book, and an e-confirmation comes straight back with a simple reference number. and the customer can happily go on their way.
Does the UK travel trade know enough about the ferry market and do you have plans to change this if so?
I think agents have shied away from this area in more modern times as their demands on directional sell and flights have taken hold. Agents used to get decent commissions with ferry operators too but these have declined over the years for all of us. Technology I feel is key here. If you have an easy, trusted, one stop- shop, robust system with all ferries, it's much easier to train your staff to use that rather than several differing agents systems. For agents who maybe book a handful of crossings a year, you only need to use one booking platform with aferryagent, not have to remember several. I think ferries don't get the coverage they should. This comes hand-in-hand with self-drive holidays in Europe, because if you want to take your car abroad you have to travel by ferry. All help to get ferries buzzing again within the trade is welcome, and if we can do anything to support this then all well and good.
What else is new at AFerry?
We have a new look site and engine flow that we've been trialling and testing over last few months. It has a huge comparative price platform, enabling customers to get the best deals. Our AFerry app and mobile platforms are launched and starting to book well too. We see these platforms becoming more and more important as time moves on. We are also expanding the selection and adding new routes and operators all the time, focusing on the Far East and Australia as we speak.
How has business been so far this year?
We had a slow start, but business from March and April has really picked up and we are steadily over past couple of months and nicely over budget which is a great place to be. June and July are key booking months for us and are looking very strong presently which is good. Some price wars are going on which has affected the average booking values on short sea in particular and that's the only issue, as it's brought down prices for customers but also earnings for the likes of us and agents. However, saying that, we feel it has increased volume, so we will wait to see how our peak season pans out. There are plenty of offers about which change regularly, but you can see on our special offers page.