Online travel marketplace Yonderbound has recently teamed up with Virtuoso, a luxury network of travel agents. // © 2014 Yonderbound
Virtuoso has partnered with new online travel marketplace Yonderbound, which recently launched in April. According to Barbara Muckermann, founder and CEO of Yonderbound, the website hopes to bridge the gap between fully automated bookings and travel advisor bookings by posing a unique experience to the consumer.
“If you look at what the world is offering now, it’s basically websites that push inventory out and are creating difficult circumstances for suppliers,” said Muckermann. “As marketers, we have built [Yonderbound] in pull mode, so that the consumer can pull from the marketplace what they need and want.”
Together, Muckermann and co-founders Barbara Biffi, chief product officer, and Lauren Serrano, vice president of strategy, have more than 30 years of travel and tourism experience combined. With prior stints at major cruise lines such as Silversea Cruises, MSC Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines among them, the three women recognize the strong value that using a travel agent brings to everyone.
Yonderbound positions millennials as its target audience. Though millennials are already fervent users of travel booking websites that guide a consumer from start to finish, they aren’t quite as acquainted with the travel advisor industry.
By partnering with Virtuoso, Yonderbound strives to “bring the amazing knowledge of travel agents to the consumer in a way that the consumers are used to, which is by pulling — mixing and matching, and being able to make their choices,” said Muckermann.
Select Virtuoso travel advisors have already created Yonderboxes, which are aspirational curations from the website’s database of more than 380,000 hotels and apartments worldwide, plus photos, notes and links — integrating their know-how of specific locations. The special Yonderboxes also enable exclusive access to Virtuoso’s unique packages, benefits and excursions.
In return, Virtuoso travel advisors gain access to a younger community normally out of reach in the travel agent industry. Travel agents will also serve as the user’s primary contact and receive their regular commission from bookings closed through Yonderbound.
“A consumer might book in full automation for a hotel in London, but if they want to go to Myanmar and Laos for more unique experiences, they’ll need a travel advisor,” said Muckermann.
She added, “As soon as we put up the [Virtuoso] Yonderboxes, we had one email from a consumer who, by the tone, was obviously a 20-year-old or something. The email sounded like, ‘Dude, I now get it! I can’t call up a monastery to spend a morning with the monks — that’s why I should use a travel agent.’”