XML takes flight on Whereto's Web site

Travel industry software developer Whereto Travel has found a new way of proving the value of its systems to clients by building and deploying an end-user Web site backed by its system.

Whereto develops applications for the Australian travel industry, developing and installing flight booking systems, accounting and other back-office systems for travel agencies and airlines. In order to show current and potential clients how its technology works, the developers have created an airline booking site for end users.

The site,, has taken over two years to develop, with the Whereto team tackling the complex task of building a back-end that understood the complexity of the Australian travel industry.

The company was formed in January 1999, with the development team building a functional Web booking engine during its first 12 months before considering a change to an XML-based system. The next 12 months were then spent converting the engine to XML to make it less cumbersome.

During the last year, the site was re-engineered using a specialist development tool from Southern Cross Galileo (SCG). SCG distributes the computer reservation technology of Galileo International, whose technology is installed in over 45,000 travel agencies and airlines worldwide. As the vendor was planning to release the beta of a new XML-based development tool, Whereto CEO and founder Ben Jackson took the opportunity to travel to Denver to take part in Galileo International's early-adopter program for the XML product.

"We have a good working relationship with Southern Cross Galileo," said Jackson. "They gave good support from a travel industry perspective."

Jackson said no other technology providers, particular those from overseas, were interested in producing such an engine for the Australian market. "In the Asia-Pacific market, every fare comes through a wholesaler with stringent rules applying to each ticket," said Jackson. "These rules can get very complex, so the majority of the first 12 months were spent building the business rules to make it work. The effort versus reward from the wholesale model was too much for most overseas developers."

But Jackson said his development team's hard work has paid off with the end-user Web site, which is used to gain revenues as an online travel agency and provide a working model for the technology it licenses to airlines and agents.

Photograph: Whereto CEO Ben Jackson.