For the past three years, each day I’ve written a marketing column here on TRO where I expound on the virtues of mission statements, branding, differentiation and points of contact. I spend some solid portion of each day pouring over sites like MarketingProfs.com, acquainting myself with what others in marketing, advertising and social media have to say about cutting edge strategy and tactics. I go to tradeshows and stand in front of groups of people and profess my theories of the best way to promote a travel company. But my best teachers have always been the very travel consultants with whom I am engaged in conversation. I don’t believe I have ever spoken about a marketing practice that I did not first see some travel agency using successfully.
Perhaps most humbling, some real experts last year allowed me to participate with them in the creation of the Travel Agent Success Series (TASS). The likes of Nolan Burris, Mike Marchev , Stuart Cohen and Scott Koepf honored me by sharing the opportunity to provide travel agents with a 10 hour training course in sales, marketing, groups, customer service and social media. There’s a free white paper from that group for any of you who would like to download it from the site, by the way.
Associations like USTOA, CLIA and USACA have demonstrated time and again that bringing a competitive industry’s voices together at a single point can raise it’s visibility to the markets and produce amazing results.
When I launched Travel Research Online, I had the opportunity to test many of my own theories. As with TASS, CLIA, USACA and USTOA, I believe the best outcomes are generated when people who some might deem competitors work together. Thus, I went up against TRO’s supposed “competition” in a unique way – by working with them. When we elevate competition to the level of cooperation, everyone benefits. The discourse becomes more civil, and the people watching are all enhanced by the resulting conversation. Thus, I proudly market Travel Weekly’s Leisure World trade shows. I market extensively with an excellent staff of people at JaxFax.
Now, I’m doing it again. I’m going to bring travel agents together in as strong and as positive a way as possible to hold a conversation with each other and with the public.
Sometime around February 15th I will be launching Travelhoppers, a new consumer site devoted to promoting the benefits of using travel consultants. The message will be constant and not always subtle. I truly believe that a skilled travel consultant represents the best possible manner of achieving value in travel planning. Therefore, many of our writers are travel consultants and almost all of the articles on the site will recommend using a travel consultant to plan each and every trip.
Those who know me know I hold mission statements to be at the core of any business enterprise. Here is the Travelhoppers’ mission statement:
Travelhoppers seeks to inspire a community of travelers to find true value in their journeys in a manner that respects the road, respects the people we visit and respects those with whom we travel.
Launching a consumer website of the scope of Travelhoppers is daunting. Right now I’m about three weeks behind schedule, with a couple of more weeks of hard work prior to commencement of countdown. There are plenty of bugs and plenty of holes in our content. But we will launch, and we will endeavor to make the site a serious contender in the world of consumer websites.
No small challenge. We will see if I practice what I preach. Get ready to have a conversation with the consumer world.
Like every website, travel magazine and newspaper, Travelhoppers will promote travel on behalf of tour operators and cruise lines to generate consumer interest in travel. What is different about Travelhoppers is that we will be the travel professional’s advocate as it inspires people to travel. I’ve never believed, in fact have railed against, the myth that getting “from here to there” is all about price. To the contrary, it’s all about value. Travel agents have tremendous value to offer, and I’m going to provide a platform for you to demonstrate it.
I’ll keep a running dialogue on Travelhoppers going in the TRO Community. I have been soliciting the input of travel agents there as Travelhoppers has been under development, and will continue to do so as we market the site to the world. We are looking for travel agent moderators, writers and participants from among our Community, so join us there.
We ask for and invite your participation and input.