Carnival Offers Bookings Via Mailpound Site

Carnival Cruise Lines has teamed with a New Jersey-based technology company and travel agent Web portal Mailpound.com to offer an online booking system that lets agents make real-time bookings on Carnival Fun Ship specials listed on Mailpound.

By: David Peterkofsky

Carnival Cruise Lines has teamed with a New Jersey-based technology company and travel agent Web portal Mailpound.com to offer an online booking system that lets agents make real-time bookings on Carnival Fun Ship specials listed on Mailpound.

REZConnect Technologies of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., developed the booking system, launched this month. A registered agent clicks a Book It button next to Mailpound's Carnival specials and completes a reservation form that is submitted electronically to a Carnival agent, who checks availability, provides a confirmation number and sends the information back to the agent.

The agent and cruise line communicate with one another in real time, using an instant messenger-style Java program that automatically pops up on the agent's computer screen once the booking process begins.

Mailpound indexes supplier specials and makes them available free of charge to agents, who can customize the specials with their agencies' contact information and forward them to clients via e-mail or fax.

Of the approximately 350 suppliers that post their specials on Mailpound, Carnival is "far and away the leader as far as number of promotions per month," said Bill Oberiter, Mailpound vice president of sales. At press time, the cruise line had nearly 150 national and regional specials listed on the site.

Carnival is the first major vendor to use the new technology, said REZConnect President and CEO Michael Brent, adding that Mailpound counts approximately 58,000 agents in North America as registered users.

The purpose of the partnership is to streamline the process of booking Carnival cruises. With the new system, Brent said, agents can make bookings "in seconds, rather than many minutes" over the phone. Confirming availability using the real-time chat system can be done in as little as 15 seconds, he said.

Adolfo Perez, Carnival vice president of reservation sales, hailed the immediacy of the system's Java-based interaction between agents and Carnival. If a special has expired or sells out, he noted, the Carnival res agent can quickly suggest similar packages or alternate dates.

Though the initial use of the REZConnect technology relates only to Carnival's Fun Ship specials, Perez said the technology eventually would be rolled out for all Carnival specials posted on Mailpound.

In addition to the Carnival announcement, Brent said REZConnect Technologies is developing Vacation Wizard, a similar product designed to facilitate the sale of tour operators' escorted and FIT products.

Brent added that one of the major GDSs is in talks with REZConnect to integrate its real-time chat technology into the GDS's Web platform.

REZConnect is no stranger to the agency sales channel: It operates the Travel Network agency franchise chain, which includes brick-and-mortar shops and in-store locations at Wal-Mart Supercenter stores nationwide.

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