For Lead-Hungry Travel Agents, Tripology Plays Matchmaker

by Andrew Sheivachman

Generating qualified sales leads is often one of the most difficult aspects of running a travel agency.

Tripology, which launched in 2007 and was acquired by USA Today Travel Media Group in 2013, offers travel agents one possible solution – for a fee.

The website aims to connect consumers who have expressed interest in a specific type of trip with agents.

Last week Tripology launched a redesign of its website in a move to streamline the user experience and increase traffic. The site is also now more accessible via tablets and smartphones.

Travel Market Report spoke with John Peters, president of USA Today Travel Group, to discuss how Tripology works, why it is a valuable tool for agents and how agents can generate business with more qualified leads.

USA Today Travel Media Group acquired Tripology about a year ago. What was the rationale behind the acquisition?
Peters: USA Today is always in the Top 10 most popular travel websites on the Internet and we are known for giving good advice to travelers. We reach millions of consumers every month, so why not offer this service?

Instead of saying, ‘Here is an article about cruising,’ we say, ‘Would you like to find out more about booking a cruise?’

Explain what Tripology does, in a nutshell, for agents who may not know.
Peters: In reality, it’s a typical lead generation business. It is Match.com for online consumers and offline travel agencies.

What kinds of consumers use Tripology?
Peters: When searching for travel online, people used to visit four or five sites; now they visit 20 or 30. There’s a glut of information on the Internet and it has made customers unsure when it comes to complicated or niche travel. I’m not talking about commodity travel you can easily book online.

Why talk to a local agent who may not have any idea about whatever complicated trip you’re interested in? On Tripology, consumers fill out on online form and get connected for free with up to three agents out of our pool of more than 15,000.

What kind of information do you ask consumers, and how do they get paired with agents?
Peters: Things like when they’d like to travel, destination, overall budget and how many people are expected for the trip. Then we send out that info to the appropriate people out of 15,000 agents. The first three to buy the lead get the customer.

How can agents participate?
Peters: There’s a free application you fill out to join, and leads cost between $1 and $25. If a consumer wants a weekend for two, it’s going to cost a couple bucks. But if it’s for 18 people who want to take a Greek island yacht cruise, it will be more.

Agents get rated by the people who create the trip request on both the pre- and post- aspect of planning and taking the trip.

Is it difficult for agents to adapt to the system?
Peters: There’s a whole slew of success stories from agents who get their entire business from Tripology. I’ve been amazed.

But just because you’re a great agent face-to-face doesn’t mean you can thrive at first with Tripology. You’ve got to learn how the system works. We give training sessions and tell people how to use it. It’s certainly not a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing.

It seems like a win-win for travelers and travel sellers. How many consumers use the service in a particular week?
Peters: From the consumer side, it is a brilliant tool. When you read a story about a particular trip, you can check a box on our site and start getting connected with an agent. There are thousands of people every week who interact with that Tripology form.

We’ve launched new niche-oriented travel product sites, and that’s where a lot of the leads are coming from. If they are on our cruise site, for instance, we know they’re a cruise enthusiast.

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Tip of the Day

I do think there are possibilities for traveler advisors to make money doing domestic trips. I charge a planning fee for my time and expertise, and then book commissionable hotels and activities that meet the client’s needs.

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