An Interview with John T. Peters, VP/GM Digital Strategy & Travel, Rand McNally | TravelResearchOnline

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An Interview with John T. Peters, VP/GM Digital Strategy & Travel, Rand McNally


johnpetersJohn T. Peters joined Tripology as President and CEO in 2008. Since then, John guided the team at Tripology in hitting critical growth milestones. In early 2010, Tripology processed its 175,000 trip request and has assembled a network of nearly 15,000 Travel Specialists. In March 2010, John sold Tripology.com to Rand McNally. Prior to Tripology, John was Vice President of Business Development & Travel Trade where he led the successful launch of Endless Vacation Rentals® by Wyndham Worldwide.

John is a frequent speaker at trade shows and international meetings including World Travel Market, EyeforTravel, Vacation Home Expo, The New York Times Travel Show, International Cruise-a-thon and others.


TRO: Since joining Tripology, you have been instrumental in meeting multiple milestones within the company. Why do you believe Tripology works so well at meeting the travel industry’s needs?

JP: Tripology is the leading online travel referral service that matches consumers with travel specialists, known as Tripologists, based on their specific vacation request.  The service provides the best of both worlds for travelers and travel professionals.  For travelers, Tripology combines a content-rich online experience with access to travel professionals for the personal attention and service they seek.   For travel specialists, Tripology is a cost-effective way to get qualified travel leads.  It enables agents to harness the immense reach of the Web, then work one-on-one with prospective clients to cultivate a customer for life.

TRO: When TRO last interviewed you, the Rand McNally site re-launch was a new development. Has this site improved Tripology’s brand and performance? If so, how?

JP: We are very pleased to be able to drive new customers to our Tripologists via randmcnally.com — Registered agents or “Tripologists” benefit from even greater exposure to consumers seeking their specific travel planning expertise with the re-launch of randmcnally.com.   The new Rand McNally website very visibly features Tripology in any location a consumer may be completing a trip. The concept is simple; a travel agent is still one of your best options when it comes to vacation planning.

TRO: Tripology has a thorough social media presence. Please explain how this helps your relationship with travel agents.

JP: Our understanding of the importance of social media, its ongoing evolution and ever-increasing impact on business offers agents an edge in many ways.  These platforms enable us to have open dialogue with travel specialists, to offer them tips and hints on how they can best utilize Tripology to boost business, and provide them with channels to learn from other successful travel pros in the marketplace, etc..  It also acts as the catalyst for enhancements to the Tripology service that directly benefit agents – such as the addition of social media icons on agent profiles – registered agents can include their Facebook and Twitter information on their profiles so consumers can reach out to them in a number of ways aside from simply a phone number or email.

TRO: Speaking of social media, now that the Tripology and Rand McNally iPhone apps have launched, can you explain how these developments can assist travel professionals?

JP:
The Tripology iPhone tool was developed to address the many consumers who use our online travel referral service regularly, making it even easier for consumers to chime in and find the right travel agent to meet their travel needs at any time.  They can submit their trip request on the go, while waiting in the car to pick up the kids, out with friends looking to plan a trip together, on a vacation that a Tripology travel specialist helped them book, or anywhere in between.  Here’s how it works: A consumer tells us about their desired dream vacation, completing a trip request form, they are contacted by up to three travel specialists who will build them a customized trip itinerary, then they select one of the travel specialists and an itinerary.

The Rand McNally app “Explore America” is a fun application that features daily photos of America’s most beautiful or unique places (on which users vote), daily quizzes on those locations, videos and detailed maps and user-submitted photos and links to Tripology (should users want to plan a vacation to the featured destination).

TRO: As a company that works solely with travel agents, do you currently have any educational or informational programs to educate agents on collaborating with Tripology?

JP: We place significant importance on training agents travel specialists to maximize the Tripology service. Therefore, we offer “The Tripology Webinar Series” in which industry experts share insightful tips and hints on how agents can gain more sales within the online environment.  Each webinar is posted on the agent website for viewing online — available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We also offer the Travel Agent Blog so agents can access the latest news and updates from Tripology, as well as industry trends and news through a series of Team Tripology postings, weekly polls, archives, feedback from agents, RSS feeds and more.  Whether a travel specialist is looking for tips and hints, looking to review comments from other agents, or to add input of their own, the Tripology Travel Agent Blog is chock-full of valuable information for all to explore.  Our Tips for Success are also very helpful. Tripology wants to ensure that its registered travel specialists get the most out of the leads they buy, so to help them succeed Team Tripology has developed a set of “Essential Tips” designed to help agents fruitfully convert more leads into customers.

TRO: During a time when many consumers look to online discount booking engines, how do you communicate the value of working with travel professionals to customers?

JP: It’s all about the “travel specialist” — Within our network of 16,000 Tripologists we have travel professionals who specialize in an expansive range of vacation styles, locations, experiences and price levels. We emphasize that if you want to take a vacation, a travel professional who specializes in the destination and type of travel that matches your request would certainly be a beneficial ally to have working for you. You could spend days researching your vacation but do you really want to take the risks of going to the wrong hotel or that you’ll be helped in case something goes wrong? Travel specialists, as the front line team for travel suppliers around the world, are the best source for values and are there to help every step of the way. They also provide that “personal touch” to the travel planning experience, offering “live” help and advice as well as priceless piece of mind for during the planning phase as well as throughout the trip. That’s what we communicate to customers.

TRO: Tripology released a statement declaring its renewed contract with CCRA Travel Solutions. What does this mean for travel agents?

JP: Our preferred alliance agreement with CCRA Travel Solutions will benefit CCRA’s growing database of over 50,000 travel agents that are registered to use the acclaimed CCRATravel.com hotel reservation portal. Through our continued alliance with CCRA, these registered travel agents will benefit from Tripology marketing support and training opportunities so they can better access leads through Tripology – and ultimately grow their businesses and boost their income in 2011.

TRO: What tool or service that Tripology offers do you believe is most beneficial for travel agents?

JP: Our dedicated travel agent web portal, www.Tripology.com/agent, provides traditional and home-based agents a cost effective way to increase sales and profits with qualified travel leads. Here, travel specialists maintain control of the leads they choose to purchase and the ability to alter their profile at anytime for maximum exposure to travelers seeking their specific expertise and personalized service. The site’s user-friendly interface and tools help ensure the success of the travel specialists.

Since the introduction of Tripology, travel specialists have clearly demonstrated their approval for this online travel referral service. The service is simple for specialists to join and use whenever they seek incremental business. Plus, registration is free; there are no membership fees and no minimum purchase is necessary. Specialists only purchase the leads they want.

TRO: How can travel agents become involved with the company?

JP: Travel specialists can access the company’s dedicated agent website at www.Tripology.com/agent for information on how to become a registered Tripologist. This is clearly the first step.  After that, there are a number of ways, beyond leads, in which Tripologists get involved with the company.  Many of our Tripologists are featured in the press, in conference and trade shows. We help them expand their social networking circles. Many go on to guest blog on popular trade media outlets.  The fact is Tripologists who really come in and “work the Tripology machine” get a fair amount of additional exposure.

TRO: Is there anything new or upcoming at Tripology that you would like to share with the travel community?

JP: Funny you should ask.  We’re about to embark on our first project to truly expose individual Tripologists to the millions of RandMcNally.com visitors. I’m afraid it’s a bit early to give all the details, but I will tell you the project involves connecting Tripologists directly with the Rand McNally audience, outside of the lead-generation aspect of our business. We’ll be ready to announce this shortly.

Travel agents who wish to learn more about Tripology by Rand McNally click here.

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