John T. Peters joined USA TODAY as President, Travel Media Group, in June 2012 and is responsible for strategy, product development, sales, and acquisitions including digital brands: 10Best.com and Tripology. His extensive travel industry career features executive roles at such acclaimed companies as Rand McNally and Endless Vacation Rentals® by Wyndham Worldwide and successful entrepreneurial ventures in tourism and technology.
John is a frequent speaker and moderator at domestic and international conferences including World Travel Market, EyeforTravel, The Los Angeles Times Travel Show, The New York Times Travel Show and others.
TRO: Tell us a little bit about your role at Tripology.
JTP: As President of the USA TODAY Travel Media Group I am responsible for developing and implementing the new strategy of the Travel vertical. We acquired Tripology in April of last year and it has been integrated into the company’s portfolio as a division of USA TODAY’s Travel Media Group. Since the acquisition, we have continued expanding the Tripology network via USA TODAY Travel Media Group sites with the ultimate goal of driving even more high-intent online leads to travel agents by offering the referral service across Gannett media outlets, which include a network of more than 100 local and national websites. Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY, is a leading media and marketing solutions company that reaches millions of people every day through our digital, mobile, broadcast and print media.
TRO: How did the idea for Tripology transpire? How have you seen it grow or evolve since the inception?
JTP: Travel remains one of the fastest growing industries in the world and travel professionals play a critical role in the process. It’s no secret that a professional travel adviser can be one of travelers’ greatest assets when planning their trips. Often times a traveler is unsure about which destination to visit, has a complex itinerary in mind, is unsure where to stay and how to travel from city to city, or is simply looking for the “locals scoop” on a destination. Having a specialist with destination expertise or specialized experience in a type of travel… cruising, honeymoons, religious pilgrimages… can certainly be an immense advantage.
Many surveys and research findings have revealed that consumers have difficulty finding specialized travel agents that can help them arrange their trips. The majority of agents get their business through personal referrals and local advertising. Most do not have expertise in e-marketing or the marketing budget to reach online travelers. This means a large potential customer base remains untapped – Tripology is designed to fill this gap.
TRO: What are some of the fundamental principles of Tripology beneficial to people wanting to plan a trip? To travel agents?
JTP: Tripology is an interactive travel referral service focused on connecting online travelers with experienced offline travel specialists, what the company calls “Tripologists.” Available free to consumers, Tripology utilizes proprietary technology to match traveler requests with travel professionals. Tripology offers the best of both worlds, combining a content-rich online experience with access to specialists offering expertise. Tripology’s consumer website, Tripology.com, has been designed to be user-friendly for consumers to use when they seek the expertise of a travel specialist.
For travel specialists, Tripology is a cost-effective way to get qualified travel leads from high-intent travelers. Tripology has been appropriately designed to be easy and risk free for specialists to join and use whenever they seek incremental business. The site’s easy to navigate interface and tools help ensure the success of the travel specialist industry. Plus, registration is free; there are no membership fees and no minimum purchase required. Travel professionals only purchase the leads they want.
Another benefit of being a Tripologist, is being recognized in USA TODAY Travel articles. Tripologists often write consumer travel tips featured and are featured in USA TODAY Travel articles online and in print.
TRO: Tripology is essentially matching clients with agents to better assist planning a vacation; can you elaborate on how this process works?
JTP: By way of links to Tripology.com from many USA TODAY products, sites, and apps, as well as extensive SEO, tens of millions of travelers are exposed to the Tripology system of using travel specialists to plan a vacation. Consumers visit Tripology.com and complete a detailed trip request form indicating destinations, budgets, tours, activities and lodging.
When there is a match between what a consumer specifies and an agent’s preferences – as detailed in the profile an agent creates when they register at Tripology.com/agent – the agent receives a ‘lead alert’ via email, with the details of the requested trip. If the travel specialist is interested in pursuing the lead, they click the “accept” link. Only the first three agents who “accept” a lead are then given the client’s contact information. The agent then contacts the client directly to provide their specialized knowledge and personal service in planning and booking the consumer’s trip.
TRO: Has the transition to online booking engines enhanced or changed how Tripology operates?
JTP: It has actually helped create more demand for specialized travel planning experts. Time-starved travelers researching and booking cruises, honeymoons, family reunions, and other complicated travel often experience “information overload” with so many deals and offers promoted online, and realize that they require the services of a travel professional and Tripology can match them with the travel planning specialist they seek.
TRO: How might a travel agent go about becoming a Tripology Specialist?
JTP: Travel specialists log on to: Tripology.com/agent to create their profile, selecting lead filters based on the exact types of trips that they specialize in booking. Travel agents are able to indicate minimum budgets, specific destinations, lead times as well as numerous other filters. Once the agent’s profile is created and submitted, it is then reviewed, confirmed (if the agent meets Tripology criteria), and accepted by Tripology, at which time the specialist starts to receive leads.
TRO: What type of training and tools do you offer travel agents to maximize their return from the service?
JTP: We place significant importance on training travel specialists to help them get the most out of the Tripology referral service. Available at Tripology.com/agent, registered agents have access to the Tripology webinar series – In fact we have insightful new webinars starting in May that will be featured on Travel Research Online that will share tips and hints on how agents can convert more sales from their Tripology leads. We also have a blog in our dedicated travel agent section of Tripology.com that showcases helpful info for agents as well as Tripology news, travel trends, agent specials, promotions and more.
Via agent Profile and Filter options, travel pros always maintain the ability to update their profile at any time and control the leads they choose. Using filters, they can restrict budget levels, destination preferences, lead time and services selected. Specialists also create a personal profile page which is emailed to a traveler once their trip has been purchased. Within this profile agents can promote their expertise, highlighting their experience, credentials and an overview of their specialties.
Additionally, agents can have their profile reviewed by a Tripology Relationship Manager to help them create a profile using best practices that entices their target customers.
TRO: Are there any upcoming events or incentives for travel agents to become a Tripology Specialist?
JTP: As part of a strategic initiative of USA TODAY, Tripology is now being featured as a prominent element of the Travel Media Group’s websites — including a trip request widget on each site’s homepage that encourages travelers to connect with a professional travel planner via Tripology.com. These sites include the travel section of USA TODAY, 10Best.com, Experience Cruises, Experience Caribbean, Experience Beach, Experience Food & Wine and many other Experience Travel sites. Further, Tripology widgets and links will start appearing in the travel sections of other Gannett properties, including Gannett’s local newspapers and television stations across the country.
In expanding this effort, Tripology, in partnership with USA TODAY Travel Media Group, is looking for the ultimate weekend getaway travel expert. If an agent is an authority in planning exciting trips for three nights or less, they may be selected as a USA TODAY Travel Media Weekend Travel Specialist.
To get started, agents should register to become Tripologists and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org describing their experience as a weekend travel planner, including why they are the ideal weekend getaway expert.
Selected agents will become the go-to weekend getaway experts that USA TODAY will quote and include as sources in Weekend Travel articles.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime!