Amid the rapidly changing social-networking on the Internet, a
growing number of travel agents and industry leaders are tapping
into new technological tacks to reach out to get the attention of
While blogs and podcasts have been around for several years,
their use is increasingly growing. Analysts at Gartner Inc.
estimated last month that next year around 100 million bloggers
will be active online. While there are no definitive statistics on
the exact number of travel blogs on the global Internet, a Google
search turns up 128 million in less than a second; 38 million
travel podcasts turn up.
Bruce Fisher, founder and co-owner of Honolulu-based Hawaii
Aloha Travel (hawaii-aloha.com), recently launched an Internet blog
as well as 12-minute podcasts “The Hawaii Vacation Connection”
Launched in April, the podcasts now get about 300 downloads a
day, he said. Neither efforts were in his original marketing
“For us, we’ve had to refresh our entire marketing plan to
reflect blogs and podcasts and to keep pace with the fast pace of
the Internet,” he said. Short for “Web logs,” blogs are simple
Internet sites that highlight your running commentary on travel
everything from the best cruise deals to a first-person experience
at a luxury spa.
Scott Ahlsmith, president of Magellan Travel Group, likens blogs
to a running conversation between you and your clients or
prospects. And the advantages include the low cost, increased
contact with clients and the ease most are much easier to set up
and maintain than a full-blown agency Web site.
Ahlsmith recently launched YOU! The Brand a new blog service
that offers agents help in setting up their own blogs. The service
offers nearly three-dozen templates from which to choose the blog
“interface” that can be changed at any time. The service costs
about $50 a month, or $479 prepaid for a year, and includes
content, a weekly podcast and a personal Web domain name.
Nolan Burris, founder of Visionistics, is an advocate of travel
“Just remember, this isn’t a place to blatantly sell your stuff,
but you can put links to your Web site within your reviews and
place ads that link to your Web site,” he said in a presentation to
agents last year. “This will definitely help your Google rankings.
Just be careful. Blog readers can spot a thinly veiled sales pitch
in a heartbeat. If a blog isn’t read, it doesn’t help your
Podcasts also are growing in popularity as the multimedia
presentations use syndication feeds to offer users the ability to
download and play them on everything from mobile devices to
Virgin Atlantic offers downloadable podcasts
(virginatlantic.loudish.com) that highlight destinations from New
York City and Las Vegas to Shanghai and Dubai. And noting
Americans’ busy schedules, a fitness destination spa in Ojai,
Calif., also has launched a series of podcasts in what may be a
first from the industry of health-oriented destination spas.
For now, Fisher whose agency is now up to more than 20
home-based agents and among the top rankings on Internet search
engines says he’s continuing to monitor trends and how they fit
into his marketing plan.
Specially tailored to travel agents, offering blog templates,
content, help and more.
Set up a free blog.
Offers tips, resources and how-to articles and links.
Offers links to hundreds of articles on how to start.
A collection of podcasts on various topics.
“Fly me to the moon” is no longer just a romantic notion, it’s a
request that 45 adventurous travel consultants including 19 from
the Western region will soon hear as Virgin Galactic announced the
Virtuoso consultants who will train to become “Accredited Space
The consultants will be the only agents in North America allowed
to reserve seats aboard Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space flights,
since Virgin sought experts in selling experiential travel.
“The Virtuoso consultants we selected embody the adventurous and
entrepreneurial spirit needed to represent Virgin Galactic,” said
Carolyn Wincer, head of Astronaut Sales for Virgin Galactic.
The select group will undergo a comprehensive education program,
with training this year. Once accredited, agents can begin
reserving seats, with the first flights launching in late 2008.
Overall, participants will make a five-year commitment to the
program, which includes marketing and sales support. To date, the
world has seen fewer than 500 astronauts, but officials hope that
will soon change. Started by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Virgin
Galactic will own and operate privately built spaceships, modeled
on the SpaceShipOne craft.
Travelers who pony up $20,000 for the cost of a ticket get a
once-in-a-lifetime experience that includes Astronaut training, “G
force” acclimatization and a spaceflight lasting over two
Western region agents tapped as specialists include: Betsy
Donley, Camelback Odyssey Travel, Phoenix; Lynda Garrett, Alpine
Travel of Saratoga, Calif.; Mary Cardoza, Cardoza-Bungey Travel,
Palo Alto, Calif.; Patricia O’Neill, Cassis Travel Service, Los
Angeles; Jay Johnson, Coastline Travel Advisors, Garden Grove,
Calif.; Kathy Keithley, Cruise and Resort Inc., Sherman Oaks,
Calif.; Gayle Gillies, Gayle Gillies Travel, Rancho Santa Fe,
Calif.; Lindsey Wallace, Linara Travel, Calabasas, Calif.; Craig
Buck, Montecito Village Travel, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Jim Sheehy,
Protravel International, Palm Desert, Calif.; Scott Borden, Travel
Dynamics Group Inc., La Jolla, Calif.; Tom Jackson, World Travel
Bureau, Santa Ana, Calif.; Craig Carter, Worldview Travel, Santa
Ana, Calif.; Vicki Upchurch, Brownell Travel, Aspen, Colo.; Alfred
Volden, All World Travel Inc., Albuquerque, N.M.; Pedro Rubio,
Kingwood Travel, Kingwood, Texas; and Tara Hyland and Diane Vest of
Navigant Vacations, Houston.
|SABRE HOTEL HELP|
Sabre Travel Network has launched a Web-based product aimed at
helping hotels and travel agencies manage hotel booking commissions
more effectively. Implementation of Sabre Worldwide Commission
Manager began last month and marks one of the first efforts to
develop an industry-wide standard.
Hotel chains and independent properties will receive regular
updates about their commission status as Sabre Travel Network
exports to Sabre Worldwide Commission Manager monthly booking
information, such as reservation numbers, check-in and check-out
dates, rates and commissions. Hotel operators can then access and
manage this information in several ways, including on the Internet.
Sabre travel agencies will be able to track their commission status
online, while a claim tool eases communication between hotels and
agencies about pending commissions.
The product is available to more than 76,000 hotels and Sabre’s
worldwide network of travel agencies that use the Sabre global
FARELOGIX REACHES DEAL
Amid the changing GDS landscape, alternative distribution firm
Farelogix recently announced a deal with BCD Travel, the world’s
third-largest travel management company.
Terms of the multi-year deal were not disclosed but the
companies said they will work together to develop and implement a
new technology platform for content management, aiming to boost
supplier optimization and increase efficiencies.
“This is a very big relationship for us and we’re pleased,” said
Farelogix CEO Jim Davidson, noting the deal makes BCD Travel the
firm’s largest client to date.
Rollout is expected to begin in the first quarter, Davidson
said, and the new platform is expected to allow BCD Travel agents
to source travel inventory from a variety of channels including
supplier-direct connections, legacy Global Distribution Systems and
private and Internet-fare sources.
The platform also will allow BCD Travel to centralize data
sources, faring and travel policy, as well as monitor and manage
Creative Leisure International has launched a new online reference
guide to help agents book the company’s luxury resort and villa
vacations. The site includes a comprehensive resort listing,
practical sales strategies and details of Creative Leisure’s agent
Creative Leisure’s Travel Agent Tools include brochures for
Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico and more. The site also allows agents
to sign into CreativeMatch, which allows agents to create and
e-mail personalized electronic brochures to clients.