Some people talk about the lack of consumer awareness about travel agents, but Travel Planners International (TPI), a new entrant to the Power List is doing something about it.
The company, a network that prefers the term "collection of specialized agencies" rather than hosting agency, has launched a consumer-facing website at travelplannersinternational.com that seeks to correct the awareness issue.
Ken Gagliano, TPI's president, said the site was launched "because the large majority of our agents lack cost-effective marketing tools to acquire new consumers.
"With both suppliers and agents wanting new customers, it was apparent that we needed to get out there and promote the use of travel agents in general," he said. "The value proposition for the consumer to use an agent or should I say 'specialized agent' has never been greater, and smaller agents and agencies can't seem to effectively get the message out there. We are taking on this mission."
On TPI's site, Gagliano said, consumers can filter their travel needs by criteria such as by type of travel or destination in order to reach the right travel adviser.
TPI is promoting the site through search engine optimization, content creation and organic exposure. The company hired a travel writer to generate content and is producing visual content to push on social media channels. An Onward Traveler e-newsletter is being sent to more than 250,000 consumer email addresses weekly. Each issue features a travel specialty, a trend article and a feature about a supplier.
In another consumer-directed move, TPI launched Vacation Nights (vacationnights.com), which, Gagliano said, "are like old-fashioned cruise nights where local consumers are invited by agents or can attend virtually. This gives agents the ability to invite their customers to a fun event.
Jenn Lee, vice president of marketing for TPI, said that despite talk about travelers wanting the cheapest vacation, they really are looking for unique experiences. "Agent specialization is the way to capitalize on that," she said.
Lee said suppliers are excited about the site. The next step is to post supplier-designated specialties for those who have, for example, Disney or Sandals certification.
"We want to help people build a real business, not a bank account," said Lee. "Agents tell us that marketing is the No. 1 thing they have trouble with, and that is what the site is intended to help with ... and they are already booking business on it."