Travel industry ‘prone to leaving legacy systems in place too long’ founder Simon Powell tells Lee Hayhurst

Sister travel technology firms Comtec and Eysys have been brought together to transform a legacy tour-operating system.

Comtec founder Simon Powell, who co-founded Eysys with chief executive Humphrey Sheil, claims the combined technology will give UK travel firms on legacy system Travelink a market-leading edge.

The partnership has seen Powell take over day-to-day running of Comtec as executive chairman.

Eysys was set up to exploit new technologies allow firms to use the data they have on clients to personalise the browsing and shopping experience.

Powell, who oversaw a buyout of Comtec from private equity in 2014, said tour operating technology is in need of modernisation.

“The selling experience has not advanced very much in the last five years,” he said. “The way search works on current systems is very limited.

“I see this coming together of two technologies as harmonising the customer experience. We are prone to leaving legacy technology in place for too long in travel.”

He added: “I see this as leapfrogging us above potential new entrants into our market.

“I’m thinking of the kind of people who come in and try to reinvent the model. These are totally disruptive.

“If you look at search, at social media, at the knowledge we have about clients and what that can offer, it’s frightening. In many cases our industry isn’t thinking along those lines.”

Powell said Eysys will look to move fast, using next generation technology, while Comtec will focus on supporting the 60 brands that rely on its core technology.

Eysys and Comtec remain separate businesses but now have a single support desk, a single sales and account management team and single service level agreement (SLA).

They are based in the same headquarters in Cardiff, Comtec’s 65 employees occupying the ground floor and Eysys’s 25 on the first floor.

Comtec head of sales Paul Middleton will be joined by a new sales director shortly.

The 2014 buyout saw former Vertical Systems chief executive Mike Russell installed as Comtec’s new chief executive, but he left in February heralding Powell’s return to the helm.

Eysys’s Holistic system includes four core products; a front-end Content Management System (CMS), a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, a personalisation engine and an automated paid search marketing platform.

It uses machine learning to match product attributes supplied to third parties to known preferences of customers and generate marketing specific for them.

Comtec is now focusing solely on Travelink while a number of the firm’s other technologies have been combined and enhanced to create Highway, a fourth generation caching technology for travel components.

Powell believes the combined technologies have the potential to transform the way tour operators present and package travel products.

A combined Comtec, Eysys and Highway platform is currently being built for a Canadian client and will be rolled out in the UK.

Powell said: “It’s a completely new platform never before seen in the industry. We will use what we learn in Canada to deliver a brand new selling experience in the UK.

“You have to add value to the data you get from suppliers and that can only be done by machine learning and artificial intelligence because it doesn’t exist in the data from the product owners.

“If you’ve got data on the customer, why continue to show them irrelevant search results?”

Comtec was due to showcase its technology at the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Tel Aviv this week.