By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

4-questionsCONCERNS have emerged over the direction of Tourism Exchange Australia – a government-funded e-commerce product distribution platform – and its technology partner V3.

The Perth-based company was chosen by Australian Tourism Data Warehouse, a massive product database supported by Tourism Australia, state and regional tourism organisations, to build TXA and facilitate e-commerce connections with suppliers, wholesalers and other industry technology providers.

This bookable product is then pumped though an increasingly influential network of 100 mostly state and regional government websites, plus a growing number of key commercial partners.

But TXA, running behind schedule with just a dozen connections in 18 months, is now facing claims that V3 is pushing small operators to its own property management product, Frontdesk, in the absence of suitable connected alternatives.

“We don’t have a choice and that’s where the real problem lies – our options shouldn’t be limited,” Fletcher Still, Owner of the Bayview Villas in Hobart said.

Damien Hudson, Manager of the Hideaway Retreat in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, was also disappointed.

“We all went to the seminar just before Easter thinking it was going to be a training session but it actually turned into a sales pitch for V3. They said if we didn’t sign up with V3 then we couldn’t be part of the new Blue Mountains website.”

ATDW CEO Liz Ward (pictured,left) said more signups would be announced soon but that TXA had under-estimated the amount of time it takes to complete connections.

“I can tell you there is a lot of integration work going on (but) it’s been a much slower process than we had anticipated,” she said.

Siteminder, a channel management business with 2000 properties on its books, claim these delays work to the advantage of V3.

“I want to connect but they say I have to hand over my entire customer list, which is unreasonable given that V3 is a competitor,” said Siteminder Managing Director Mike Ford.

“Who in their right mind would do that?”

But Liz Ward said there is no issue. “I see no problems under a Non Disclosure Agreement with sharing information like that.

“They (V3) will see it when it goes through the system anyway.

“This situation has developed because people like Mike Ford don’t hear what they are being told,” she said.

“Siteminder has been getting more attention than you can believe.”

V3 Founder Shane Crockett, said there was no conflict of interest, both in terms of seeing other company’s client list or selling Frontdesk.

He also disputed Ford’s claim that V3 and Siteminder are rival companies because “we are not developing a channel management product” and “have no intention of doing so”.

Crockett said Siteminder was the only company which had had a problem with the approach taken by TXA and that other property systems – including MyFidelio and RMS – had been connected without issue.

Crockett said there would be a number of new connections to TXA announced in the next few weeks including several channel management companies but said he was not at liberty to say who.

Meanwhile, there may be some hope for the Siteminder stand-off with Rowan Sproule, Director of Strategy at Tourism Tasmania, saying he would like to see the company involved with TXA.

“It’s on our list to get done, and anything we do is a national thing” Mr Sproule said.

Travel Trends: May 21, 2009

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