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Leading NZ Travel Firm Launches Online Initiative

LEADING NZ TRAVEL FIRM LAUNCHES MAJOR ONLINE INITIATIVE

September 18 - House of Travel, New Zealand's largest privately owned travel firm will launch a new online booking website tomorrow (Sunday September 19), which it believes is a world first.

Through the website ( http://www.houseoftravel.co.nz/ ) customers will - for the first time - be able to compare fares offered by 17 airlines flying across the Tasman, throughout the South Pacific, and around New Zealand.

The move to provide online bookings and an innovative fare comparison system was part of the company's natural progression as a leading travel retailer, said managing director and founder of the House of Travel brand, Chris Paulsen.

"Customers are keen to have the choice as to how and when they book their travel. Whether it's by phone, in person, online or a combination, the most important thing is that customers have different needs and as retailers we need to meet them," Paulsen said.

"We believe that House of Travel is the 'new generation' travel firm. Traditionally consumers have gone to a retail outlet (a 'bricks and mortar' business) for travel bookings and information and that was where 80% of the travel industry's business was transacted.

"Latterly there has been the introduction of online booking websites mainly by individual airlines which has provided the customer with convenience when purchasing but does not present them with all the available options or the level of service you receive from a retail outlet," he said.

Paulsen believes purchasing online has previously been simply about a "buying" proposition and not about servicing or supporting the client's needs, particularly if it is a more complicated request or the situation alters and changes are required. However Paulsen believes the new website offers the best of both worlds.

"What House of Travel is doing is very much about the 'future generation' of travel agents - and we haven't seen this integration of bricks and mortar with online in any of the research we have conducted worldwide.

"With House of Travel the customer now has access to the convenience and choice of all the airlines available from http://www.houseoftravel.co.nz/ for online booking with the knowledge that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a House of Travel representative based in New Zealand is only a phone call away for advice, support or more information or the customer's preferred House of Travel outlet can be visited during opening hours," he said.

Initially flights and accommodation will be offered domestically, to the South Pacific and Australia. The website will also offer a 'looking' option providing information on other locations around the world.

"There are now 11 different airlines flying from New Zealand to Australia and while they all have websites you cannot book travel on all of them. It makes it incredibly time consuming having to search or ring them all. How do you really know if you have got the best deal? The reality is people just don't have time to investigate all the options and now they don't have to, they can see it all on one website plus have 24 hour, seven day a week back up from a House of Travel representative if they want it," Tony Moffatt Commercial Director remarked.

"The price offering is the same online as it is in the outlets which means our customers can book their travel in the way that suits them best and our consultants are there to support them anytime," Moffatt said.

"The House of Travel website is a completely independent site, there will be no advertising or preference towards pushing a particular airline, it's about the customer seeing the options and making the best choice for them."

A recent Massey University study claimed that consumers were increasingly using the internet to find information about destinations and accommodation and to plan itineraries.

Moffatt agreed: "We also see online as another medium to provide the consumer with ideas and inspiration and as a result have designed a section on the website called 'looking'. As you browse through the information you can put locations and accommodation which you like the look of into a virtual shopping basket. In fact you can even email it to your preferred House of Travel outlet for further advice and information."

Moffatt believes being a New Zealand firm, House of Travel can offer customers an added degree of confidence when it comes to booking online.

"While more people are buying online every day there are some people with concerns regarding how safe it is and what backup do they have if something goes wrong or they need to change something. House of Travel is a New Zealand company based in New Zealand which has been around since 1987. Being able to book travel online is an extension of our offering to our customers and our consultants are only a phone call away.

"This site was built by Kiwis to meet the needs of Kiwis - it is something we can all be proud of," he said.

Key advantages include:

- One website that provides all the flight options for New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific, with time and cost schedules Because all of the information is provided on one site it allows the customer to compare, evaluate and choose with all the facts in front of you

- Information on 43 destinations, 17 airlines, 300,000 seats and 15,000 hotel rooms each week and over 2,000 pages of destinational information is provided on the website

- House of Travel backup - the customer selects an outlet that is sent their booking. They can access this at anytime for advice, further information or changes

- 24/7 access to House of Travel representative, during office hours through the nearest or preferred outlet and afterwards through the House of Travel call centre staff - all based in New Zealand

- Designed and built by New Zealanders specifically to meet the travel needs of New Zealanders

- Independent website with no airline favoured or allowed to advertise on the site

- "Looking" section providing information and inspiration - operates with a shopping basket approach allowing locations of interest to be put into a shopping basket which is also sent to the customer's preferred House of Travel retail outlet. This allows the consultant to get information and research material in advance ready for a meeting with the customer about their travel

- Responsible approach - It will include transfers if appropriate where accommodation is booked and in the majority of cases it will automatically provide you with a travel insurance offer.

If an alternative route is an option it will provide the customer with the information

eg: If Hokitika to Sydney is requested it will also come up with costs and timetable for Christchurch to Sydney, Christchurch to Brisbane (Gold Coast) will also show Christchurch to Gold Coast Airport, Coolangatta. The site is designed to provide the customer with all the alternatives

Palmerston North to Brisbane will also come up with flight options from Wellington

Hamilton to Brisbane will also come up with flight options from Auckland

http://www.houseoftravel.co.nz/ will be live from 6pm Sunday 19th September.


ENDS

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