Spa Finder`s new management seeks to build critical mass

Spa Finder, the New York City-based spa travel, marketing and publishing company, which was taken over by new management in April, has announced two new initiatives to broaden its exposure in two major distribution channels—the Internet and traditional travel agencies.
Earlier this month, Spa Finder (www.spafinder.com), announced its partnership with Worldres.com, the hotel site, to create a spa channel on leading Internet sites. The spa channel, scheduled to launch in July, is intended to be a comprehensive source of spa travel information and will allow consumers to get information about and book a spa vacation on hundreds of travel and specialty Web sites. Under the agreement, Spa Finder will be Worldres.com’s exclusive spa travel partner. Spa Finder properties will be available on the Worldres.com’s partner Web sites, of which there are 1,700. They include AOL, Lycos, Yahoo!, Delta Airlines, BestLodging.com, MapBlast and more. Consumers will be able to check availability and book spas on these sites. Additionally, WorldRes.com will provide technology to Spa Finder for its call center and a booking engine for www.spafinder.com. WorldRes.com will also be the exclusive reservation and distribution system for Spa Finder.
At the same time, Spa Finder has recently introduced its summer line of air-inclusive vacation packages that travel agents can sell. Spa Finders is paying agents an 11% commission on these sales. This is the first of what will be a quarterly initiative. Spa Finders is focusing on two types of products. The first are affordable packages, since spas are becoming very popular vacations, and the second are packages for couples, to help introduce men to the spa market.
Package prices start at just under $700 and include spas in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific. They include airfare, meals and a choice of various spa services such as body wraps, reflexology and fitness programs.
These initiatives follow changes at Spa Finders; new management took over the company in April after Pete Ellis, the founder of the automotive e-commerce site, Autobytel.com, acquired a majority stake in Spa Finder, Inc. through Jubilee Investments. Ellis is serving as chairman. He brought in Steve Buck, former CEO of Spa.com, as president and CEO; Richard Palfreyman, a former Computerland executive, is CFO and COO; and William Q. Dowling, an international travel executive, is president of the travel division.
According to industry estimates, spas and spa-related products are a $5.3 billion industry in the U.S., and revenues from increased spa usage have risen by more than 20% in each of the past six years. At the same time, travel is one of the top e-commerce segments. PhoCusWright research reports that consumers will book $23 billion worth of travel online this year, a 58% increase over last year, and projects that that number will grow to more than $40 billion by 2003. Complex vacations, such as spa packages, are one the greatest potential markets for the Internet. As Internet sites become easier to use and their technology becomes better equipped to handle complex products such as spa vacations, PhoCusWright expects to see great growth in this market sector. Worldres itself is seeing triple digit annual growth in its online bookings.
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