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Open Jaw

Cutting Edge Technology

Proprietary ADX technology takes away pain so agents can gain

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Dave Volman Chief Technology Officer for Travel Edge, and his team spent much of the past decade building the technology that powers luxury tour operator Kensington Tours.

“We’d seen what it could do for a tour operator and it was super-impressive. We thought that if we could do the same thing for agents, that would really be something.”

Travel Edge CEO Jeff Willner not only took his long-time colleague Volman up on that challenge, he raised the stakes, as CEOs tend to do.

“We decided to take our technology and bring it to retail agents to help them transform how they did business. The goal of Travel Edge is to double the margins of people working in travel,” Willner told Open Jaw. “In five years, we’ve built a tremendous piece of technology that makes that possible.”

The result is the ADX system, a modern travel management tool that enables agents to book air, cruise, insurance and hotel, simply and efficiently.

“Agents need to provide a complete client experience,” says Volman. “But they have to use a multitude of technologies and tools to get the job done. Booking a cruise on CruisingPower or Polaris. Assembling a quote in Word. Using Sabre or Amadeus for air. Using another application or vendor for insurance. Then there’s invoicing and CRM. Agents were telling us they didn’t have time to do the things that their clients really wanted, and that’s what we wanted to fix.”

Fixing a convoluted IT process is easier said than done.

“It’s taken longer than imagined. It’s been a bumpier road than imagined,” Volman says. “We’ve integrated some 26 technology partners and feeds, everything an agent needs to build a client experience.”

Volman candidly admits that the first agents booking through the ADX system – back in 2013 – didn’t have a great experience.

“We didn’t aim for perfection. We’d get to 80%, then listen to the feedback. Then we’d do better on the next release.”

Volman says the developers would release new versions every two weeks, getting 5% better each time. “We put out 20 releases of our air tool before it was something people started to use.”

Technology

But now the air booking tool features a custom database with nearly 200 airline contracts and negotiated commission with over 50 airlines. When ADX users search for an airfare, as well as finding the right match for their client, they see which ones will earn them the most money.

A million-dollar-selling Travel Edge cruise specialist had previously given all his air bookings to a shared person. In the year before ADX he had $80K in air bookings -- with no commission. At the end of the first year of using ADX he had earned $20K in commission split he didn’t see the year before. With no risk of debit memos. With auto-ticketing. And with a help desk to contact when necessary.

The money is great, no question. CEO Willner has described retail travel as “an impoverished business.” But neither he nor Volman believes it has to stay that way.

“What do people want from travel advisors? They want to hear about the exquisite taste of the peach gelato in Rome. They’d rather talk to someone who can tell them what that’s like than go to Expedia. If they’re too busy invoicing in ClientBase along with everything else they have to do, it’s easy to fall into a transactional relationship with clients. But that’s not where the agent value is.”

“We don’t see technology as replacing the agent,” says Volman. “We see it as freeing up the agent to do a better job.”

New ADX users can be trained top to bottom in three days, Volman says, including cruise, air, hotel, insurance, invoicing and CRM functionality.

“An IC who joined us was booking on ADX after one day. A ‘rising star’ heading for $1 million in sales told me: ‘I don’t know how to book travel. I just know how to use ADX.’”

Upcoming ADX releases will integrate Kensington’s massive inventory of guided or private group tours, and car rental is also on the schedule. Next year will also see the release of a Travel Edge app with itinerary information that will enable clients to buy through the app. “This will be a great communication loop between agent and client,” Volman says.

A seasoned CTO knows that the work of his group will never be done.

“There’s always something that needs to be added or refined. At Kensington, we were a 10-year overnight success. It’s the same with ADX but the timeline has been shortened. We’re super-excited. We just want to keep finding ways to help our agents be more successful.”

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