Everyone knows that an online presence is vital to the serious travel professional’s business these days. If nothing else, being online offers a place to highlight personal experience and qualifications, as well as detail preferred suppliers, travel specials, and much more. A great way to develop this online presence cheaply and quickly is by use of one of the worlds most popular blogging platforms called WordPress.
By using WordPress, you create an easy-to-use, professional looking site that is highly tailored specifically to you and your agency. While WordPress is primarily a blogging platform, it can be utilized as a more encompassing website if done with the right template and set-up. Many WordPress themes are excellent at displaying a large amount of information in a clean, easy to follow format. They also allow for excellent use of images, graphics, and video. And the best part–even for a novice, it’s a snap to keep things updated and looking fresh!
Joe Raube of Dream Come True Vacations did just that: he purchased a WordPress theme from DIYthemes and modified it for his use. Dream Come True Vacations focuses on Disney, and as many of us know there is a ton of information to wade through. Visitors to Joe’s website are immediately given a list of reasons why Dream Come True Vacations is an excellent choice for Disney travelers, highlighting the experience of the agency’s staff, awards and recognitions given by the Disney Company, and more. On the same page, visitors can get an “at-a-glance” view of specials and news related to the various Disney products.
Underlying pages and links of the site go into further detail on the specials and news, providing an archive of both–very handy for research purposes. Visitors can also find a section devoted entirely to testimonials from past clients, as well as a form used to submit a travel request to the agency staff.
Joe has been able to maximize the theme by adding in high quality graphics and photos, including a beautiful agency name banner created by a highly satisfied client. Visiting the site gives the impression of quality, thoroughness, organization, and enthusiasm for the product. Since most visitors to websites use the appearance, layout, and content of a site for their “first impression”, these qualities end up being transferred onto Joe and his staff in the mind of the client.
Another WordPress powered website is Travel Research Online. TRO, as you know, is a great resource for travel professionals containing articles such as this one, destination content information, networking, and much more. WordPress allows TRO to condense the information into an easily archived and easily presented format. With all the articles, sponsor images, and other information, it would be easy to drown in information, but with WordPress, TRO manages to keep things easily located.
With WordPress, it is relatively easy to create your own polished and professional-looking space. So, how do you get started with WordPress? WordPress has two distinct versions—both are open source and are available at no cost. WordPress.com provides free hosting for your blog or site, but limits the available themes that can be used, as well as limits the customization of those themes. This is good for a novice just starting out and needing something basic. It’s also good if you’ve got an existing website, but want to develop a blog where you can post more “dynamic” content frequently. With the hosted version, WordPress prohibits advertising, so the co-branded link to your favorite supplier will not be allowed. They believe that the content should speak for itself. Of course, promotion within the content is fine!
For most, however, the limitations of WordPress.com are too constraining. For greater functionality and customization, visit WordPress.org. At WordPress.org, you download a full featured version of the platform and you host it on your own server or domain—not theirs. WordPress includes thorough, easy to follow instructions on how to install the software, and comes with a few basic themes to get you started. From there, it’s all about choosing a theme and customizing it for your needs and wants and making it work for you.
Utilizing WordPress to power your website or blog can result in untold benefits, but there is a slight learning curve. It’s not something you will master overnight, although you can easily get the general gist within a few days. But gone are the days of knowing HTML coding. It’s not uncommon for a WordPress site to go through several changes, themes, and customizations until the right one is found to make things “click.” But when they do click, the return is worth it!
In my next column, I will talk about how to make your blog work for you by involving your clients, and getting them to return. What about you? Do you have a blog? Any tips to share? Did you read TRO’s series on blogging? Also, be sure to download TRO’s Blogging For Travel Agencies special report.
Steve Cousino, CTA is a two year industry veteran with Sunnyland Tours in Springfield, MO. He holds Lifestyle Specialist designations in Luxury Travel and Gay/Lesbian Travel, and is known for specializing in cruises, Western European tours, group travel, and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.