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NZ IT entrepreneur set to shake up travel industry

NZ IT entrepreneur set to shake up travel industry with launch of one stop website for tourists to NZ

An innovative new website makes researching, planning and booking travel to (and around) New Zealand as easy as clicking a button.

Auckland IT entrepreneur, Graeme Frost, aims to revolutionise the way tourists plan their trip to and around New Zealand with the launch of, the world’s first comprehensive online tour planning system that enables tourists (and Kiwis) to research, plan and their book their entire New Zealand itinerary on just one website.

Graeme Frost, who has two decades of experience in the IT and travel industries - including at Atlantic and Pacific Travel, at Wang and as founder and CEO of Keystone Solutions - set up the software for the website with a team of developers two and a half years ago. Frost has now launched the Cadabra New Zealand website in partnership with ANZCRO, the largest inbound tour operators to New Zealand.

Frost says he developed the idea for the innovative website after a chance encounter with an American couple who had booked a trip visiting New Zealand’s luxury lodges. The couple had researched and booked different sectors of the trip over the Internet from their United States East Coast home, but their dream vacation turned into a logistical nightmare, having to plan, book and track their nine day trip on 13 different websites.

Cadabra is aiming to attract what is known in the travel industry as FIT travel – Fully Independent Touring – one of the largest growing sectors of the tourism market, since the traditional packaged tour started to lose its lustre and appeal.

However, says Frost, the challenge presented by this complex, personalised touring is the burden of planning which falls on the traveller. There was previously no online solution which offers the personalised tour traveller a single full-service website where they can research, plan and book their tour around New Zealand.

Unlike Cadabra, the current global major players in the market such as Expedia and Travelocity are designed mainly for booking flights and hotels. These sites typically allow travellers to book travel to a single location, and then return home. Other sites such as Trademe’s new “Travelbug” provide listings of accommodation available in each town and bookings are made on a piecemeal basis. None of these sites cater for the detailed planning of travel inside the country, including multiple destinations, multiple travel modes, and leisure/activity options in each location: this travel is categorised as complex touring by the travel industry.

Most travellers to the South West Pacific are time poor, and previously have had to rely on travel agents to advise and plan their itineraries. However this can be difficult, time consuming and sometimes disappointing unless the travel agent concerned has a detailed knowledge of New Zealand, which often they have not.

Says Frost: “People arrive in Auckland and then want to tour around. When they are planning their New Zealand holiday they have heard of places but they are not always aware of the distances between many of the top destinations, or the best way to travel around them.”

Cadabra, because it is designed by IT and New Zealand travel specialists, will be invaluable particularly to the first time traveller to New Zealand as the website’s unique Itinerary Wizard allows travellers to interactively build complex multi destinational personalised tour itineraries for their travel around New Zealand. The website can also cope with split itineraries, for instance, when one partner wants to go fishing and the other wishes to pamper themselves at a health spa.

“We take things people want to do and places they want to see and then we build a series of recommended itineraries. If they want to play golf, then we will rate the best destinations for golf,” says Frost.

Cadabra builds a selection of itineraries based on the length of stay, grade of hotel, places people know they want to visit, and the experiences and activities travellers are interested in.

Cadabra provides the combined advice and knowledge from Cadabra and ANZCRO staff, travellers’ tips and ratings, and also Qualmark ratings, the official New Zealand tourism ratings system.

Online users of the site have direct access to over 1000 accommodation options and 3000 tourism services. Although aimed at international visitors, Cadabra’s early website usage reports show similar numbers visits from New Zealanders as Australians, British and Americans. “I guess we face the same problem planning our itineraries,” says Frost.

Frost expects that initial users of Cadabra will be travellers who are already using the Internet to book travel and he appreciates that Cadabra is a niche product, but it is a rapidly growing niche. Tourism New Zealand research shows that 57% of “interactive travellers” discovered New Zealand online, with other international research predicting that nearly 40 per cent of the total travel market will be booked online by 2011.

Frost says the website also takes into account that travellers enjoy researching and planning their own trips (remember poring over glossy travel brochures?), so it has been designed to be as attractive and inviting as possible. Once a recommended itinerary has been built, Cadabra then allows the user to modify it in any way they wish to plan their “perfect vacation.”

And, because many people don’t have a strong knowledge about New Zealand, Cadabra allows travellers to experience some of the sights and sounds of their chosen destinations through the website.


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