Booking Travel for a Good Cause

Non-profits get into the online travel game, with help from travel agencies

By: By R. Scott Macintosh

Making travel arrangements over the Internet can now be done charitably.

Travel agents using Atlanta-based nPorta’s TravelASP technology can help non profit organizations and companies, outside of the travel industry, enter the world of online booking to generate additional revenue for their causes.

The Travel Outlet of Virginia was the first travel agency to make such an arrangement with a non profit organization.

Roy Estaris, the agency’s CEO and a co-founder of nPorta, is largely responsible for the concept.

While his company served as the in-house agency for Operation Smile, a non profit providing reconstructive surgery to children worldwide, Estaris wanted to find a way to help the group raise funds.

The agency helped Operation Smile launch an online booking engine on their Web site, powered by the TravelASP technology.

“I thought to help the organization, why not provide an engine for them,” he said. “In return they can capture their donors and supporters who book travel online. They get additional donations for travel booked through the site. And it’s helping the children, which really makes you feel good at the end of the day.”

As a result, both the agency and Operation Smile benefit, every time a visitor books a trip through the non profit’s Web site.

Now, nPorta is billing the model as a way for agencies to team up with non profits and expand their businesses.

The company has also helped GoldStar Travel of Atlanta team up with the Atlanta Board of Realtors, which gives donations to the Habitat for Humanity, to launch a TravelASP site.

“It allows agencies get business from people who might otherwise go to one of the larger Internet travel sites to book travel,” said Susan Moore, chief operating officer of nPorta. “It can help to secure clients and add value beyond traditional travel services.”

Travel agencies provide the fulfillment on the travel products booked through the non profit site. So, for non profits to benefit, they should ideally collaborate with a travel agency.

Operation Smile, for example, receives a $7 donation for every booking made on its Web site. The Travel Outlet of Virginia takes care of the travel orders.

“It’s a way for people to help support us, instead of going through Travelocity,” said Lisa Jardanhazy, vice president of communications for Operation Smile.

TravelASP is an online booking engine, similar to popular Web sites like Travelocity and Expedia. Targeted for travel agents to use Estaris used his travel-agent background to help develop the technology.

Worldspan provides the inventory for TravelASP. However, nPorta is negotiating with suppliers to get its own negotiated rates. The goal is to become more competitive with online giants, while adding a philanthropic edge to the service.

“Those who cannot make a big contribution can simply book travel online and make a small one,” Moore said. “Do you want to put your money into a non profit or give it to a giant like Expedia?”