I’m Glad We’re With Virtual Ticketing Solutions

The past week has seen a massive shake up of critical business platforms in the North American passenger vessel industry. On Friday, July 1st, we learned that the pioneer in Reservations and Ticketing systems, TJ Software was sold to ACME Technologies. But a bigger shock was hearing Monday that Zerve was abandoning its customer base and closing shop. Whether it’s Canada Day, July 1st or the 4th of July, the last thing we as business operators want to deal with is changes to our mission critical enterprise systems that are our lifeblood. In July!!

Thankfully, our business is not affected. We were a TJ client for 20 years. A very satisfied client. In 2013, our business model changed when we acquired a Trolley operation. Starting with that season, we made the switch to Destination Manager from Virtual Ticketing Solutions of New Orleans.

I first met Mike Brydon in 2009, owner of VTS, when he came to Toronto for a Canadian Passenger Vessel Industry conference. I was intrigued because his lead client was Gordon Stevens’ operation at New Orleans Steamboat. I met Gordon in 1993 when I went to New Orleans to check out TJ. I soon learned that the system that Mike had built for Tina and Gordon at NOSB was based on TJ features and functionality but with modern software architecture.

It took me 4 years to finally make the change after lots of due diligence and another trip back to New Orleans Steamboat. The critical factor in my decision was that Destination Manager is a client based system vs. event based. This meant we could add numerous events, services, details, all with customized notes, tickets and documents to a single reservation.

In the 4 seasons since the move, I have no regrets. It has been a stable platform and a great relationship with the developer. Our business in that time has doubled, our internet bookings, now ten times what they were. This season, we’ve developed a full City Pass with Destination Manager that allows visitors admission to a dozen attractions, cruises, trolley, museums, events using one ticket sold at one price. We’re very excited about our K-Pass program.

Over the 25 years I’ve been attending the American PVA conferences. I’ve seen and investigated dozens of ‘Ticketing’ systems. For the first 15, it was Terry Heenan and 3 or 4 different vendors each year. In the last 10, they have been many more professional outfits with great products. But ‘Ticketing’ is the easy part of our needs. We need a system that manages the matrix of unique, multiple capacity and function vessels, complicated departures, trip legs, meals, services, function details, notes, contracts, documents, and so much more. Every time I put to a system developer that I needed a system that can do multiple capacity with sightseeing, lunch, packages, presold services on one departure with a particular boat, the answer is usually ‘we can have a look at
that…’

Destination Manager or VTS is not perfect, no system is. But when I spoke with a friend of mine, abandoned by Zerve with tens of thousands of dollars in limbo in future reservation after today, I was very glad to have a solid, local server based enterprise system, depositing payments everyday through my credit card transactor. The money is on our bank, not in the cloud.

I can’t imagine what some operators must be dealing with right now. But I’m writing this letter to recommend the VTS solution that I have come to rely on.

Either myself or our far more competent reservation team leads would be happy to speak with any fellow Passenger Vessel Operator about our VTS system. More strongly than ever, I’m glad we’re with Mr. Brydon and his team.

Hugh Mackenzie, Kingston & the Islands Boat Lines Ltd