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Abacus Launches E-ticketing in RP
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Arlene Dabu-Foz
Date: 2004-05-27
Is the Philippines ready to take off with e-ticketing?

The pros and cons of the multi-million buck query threw their weight around when Abacus, the region’s leading Global Distribution Services (GDS), faced recently the press and the key players in the country’s active travel and trade industry.

Abacus, next to Galileo, is the second GDS to introduce e-ticketing in the Philippines. Electronic-ticketing, or the so-called paperless ticket, is a new hitch-free option being offered to travelers who would like to book a flight or buy plane tickets anytime online.

E-ticketing is widely accepted in the United States and Europe. The trend, though, has yet to reach the “walking wobbly” stages in Asia. Among the eticket ready countries in the region are Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. It is interesting to note that India, China and South Korea are the trend’s major markets in Asia.

During the Tourism Press Corps Inc. (TPCI) forum at the Shangri-La Makati Hotel, the touchy issue of the country’s travel trade sector’s readiness to use e-ticketing was met with animated feedbacks from the audience.

Batting for the theme “E-Ticketing – Moving Forward in the Philippines,” Rogelio Sarreal, vice president-associate sales of Abacus International Pte. Ltd., explained that e-ticketing will benefit both sides of the trade since “it’s a great solution and new development in providing service to the traveling public.”

Guest speaker Sarreal said, “e-ticketing will be an effective cost-cutting tool for the providers (airlines and travel companies) and it will help increase their marketing competitiveness while consumers (travelers), on the other hand, will enjoy it’s security and convenience.”

Among the panelists were Amy Meris – reservations manager of Northwest Airlines (NW), Yun Meng Chew- station manager of Singapore Airlines (SQ), Vickie Yue – assistant to the country manager of Cathay Pacific Airlines (CX), Demy Silverio – president of Abacus Philippines, Len Rivera – sales manager of China Airlines (CI), Donna Disini – sales manager of Singapore Airlines (SQ), Joey Laurente – sales manager of KLM, and Marilyn Ngo – president of Philippine Iata Agent Travel Association (PIATA).

Abacus has been mightily pushing for the industry players to engage in eticketing being the global trend. It has been adopted in the region for more than three years and all it takes is for the airlines, travel companies and their GDS to be ready. “All GDS and most major airlines are e-ticket ready,” said Sarreal.

The beauty of the product, the proponents say, is that online tickets are cheaper than the ones bought from the travel agency. Through e-ticketing, the passenger will be issued tickets by email or facsimile, there will be no more FedEx or door-to-door delivery, just surf through the Internet and you’ll get your ticket.

However, Frank Khouri rebutted. “Why focus on what’s the trend in the US when we are in the Philippines and both countries have very different markets? Of the 45 airlines in the country only 14 have signified interest in the eticketing program and only four airlines are ready for that.” Khouri is past president of Philippine Iata Agent Travel Association (PIATA) and president of Premier Travel.

The four e-ticketing-ready airlines are Northwest Airlines (NW), Cathay Pacific Airlines (CX), Singapore Airlines (SQ) and China Airlines (CI).Qantas Airlines (QF) and KLM recently joined the group and Philippine Airlines (PAL) is expected to follow soon.

Abacus forked a hefty $4 million to assist 15 airlines in nine countries, including the Philippines, on e-ticket implementation.

Khouri challenged Abacus to help all airlines in the country brace up for the new trend since he said, very little information is available to Filipino travelers about e-ticketing since Abacus launched it here last Feb. 25.

Readiness aside, Aileen C. Clemente, assistant vice president and general manager of Rajah Travel, asked if eticketing would get general acceptance since, she said, most Filipino travelers feel more comfortable holding real airline tickets. “Tickets bought online or through e-ticketing is very different from tickets issued by airlines. First, we want to increase the security features of e-ticketing, including the proof of issuing tickets, since there will be no audit coupons or official receipts.” She asked, “When there’s power outage at the airport, what do we do since e-tickets have to be checked or confirmed through the computer?”

Abacus’ Silverio clarified, “We cannot implement it here if the industry is not ready. We have to undergo a series of testing to qualify and we have been training Abacus subscribers to make them competent.”

Marciano C. Ragasa, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), said, “The industry is not yet ready though we have to march towards the future. It should be done through concerted efforts so that the public will be educated about e-ticketing. If there’s a primer to be given to us, it will be much easier. Imagine, I have to spend 10-15 minutes to explain why e-ticketing is much easier each time I face a client.”

Rivera of China Airlines said, “E-ticketing has been around for sometime and China Airlines has been at it for three years already. In the Philippines, we are on the road to educating the public about e-ticketing. We have been campaigning to all IATA agents to do it, we do training and we don’t choose agents, we’re not laid-back.”

Citing a trade-off, Ragasa said, “So that we can move faster technologywise and reap the benefits as well as convenience of this global trend, we are moving towards that path even if it will marginalize the travel agents. That’s the price of progress.”

To pave the way for e-ticketing viability in the country, Sarreal assured the forum, “We have all the same objectives. We want to have a healthy travel industry as we are all worried about security and public acceptance of e-ticketing. We need to address the lack of confidence on the part of the agencies to make the technology acceptable. Abacus will do its best to educate the public to make e-ticketing more viable here. We will also come up with primers of frequently asked questions to respond to such concerns.”

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