Hovertravel is the world’s longest-running commercial hovercraft operator and is the only scheduled passenger-hovercraft service in Europe. They provide the fastest route across The Solent, ensuring a speedy service for tourists and business professionals travelling between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

The Challenge

Hovertravel required a new travel booking system for their busy hovercraft service. The system would incorporate new advanced booking technology, a B2C website, and a back-office admin portal, thus supporting Hovertravel's entire booking operation. Considering the scope of the project and the specific technical requirements, a complete custom build was required.

The new system would represent a significant investment and advancement in Hovertravel’s digital infrastructure. As a technical agency with 23 years’ experience in developing travel software, CSI Media were appointed to deliver the solution.

Our Approach

Given the magnitude of the project, we adopted a Sprint approach by building and releasing developments in a series of iterations. A designated Technical Lead worked closely with key technical and marketing personnel at Hovertravel to understand their requirements; we held frequent update calls and invited client feedback with multiple feedback loops throughout the project.

Initially, we developed an MVP that incorporated key functionality; this gave Hover the opportunity to provide feedback and direct future product development. Furthermore, before commencing, our developers completed a data migration so that all customer and ticket data carried over from the previous system to phase 1, and then from phase 1 to the current product, phase 3. 

Booking Functionality

The booking platform incorporates multiple layers of advanced functionality and clever logic. It works with Hover’s pre-existing EPOS till system enabling the customer service team to process orders, print tickets + season cards. The system also integrates with the B2C website, allowing customers to book hovercraft journeys online.

On the ground, the solution automatically handles the boarding process. It processes ticket usage data and inspects ticket validity by checking that customers are boarding the right craft via our custom validation rules. For passengers that arrive early, the system's logic may allow them to board another hovercraft based on the ticket type and capacity.

The Portal

The portal is a back-office admin area for the team at Hovertravel to manage hovercraft inventory, customer records, ticketing and in-house bookings. Our designers incorporated Hover’s visual identity across a clean and modern UI. Bespoke functionality allows the team at Hovertravel to:

  • Set up hovercraft and their capacity
  • Add new crossings
  • Add, update and delete customer records
  • View & manage orders, and issue refunds for cancellations

The B2C Website

The brand-new website serves operational, promotional and informational objectives - each was carefully considered when architecting and designing the website.

Firstly, passengers can book tickets for hovercraft journeys via an intuitive booking journey. They can also find the latest information about tickets, pricing, times, the status of crossings and special offers.

We decided to build the website on the popular Umbraco CMS. Umbraco enabled us to deliver the functionality and integration required, but also provides the marketing team at Hovertravel with a powerful content-editing experience via the Page Builder tool, media bank, and SEO features.

This was important because the website acts as a digital marketing tool to improve brand visibility and draw in tourists to the Isle of Wight. Hovertravel's e-commerce team can easily create new landing pages for attractions with text, imagery, and price information, helping to promote days out on the Isle of Wight including historical venues, wildlife & nature days out, and family entertainment. Users can book tickets for these attractions in addition to their hovercraft tickets.

Hovertravel Travel Website Design
Hovertravel Website Design
Hovertravel Umbraco Website


The project incorporates the latest technologies and approaches including:

  • Microservices
  • .NET Core
  • ES6 JavaScript
  • SASS
  • Request Proxying
  • Elastic Stack
  • Docker
  • Fluent Migrator
  • MS SQL Server
  • Continuous Integration (our team are constantly making updates / push button deployments)