WiredFlyer, a technology company here, aims to launch a Web-based sales and marketing tool for the trade in mid-February which, its creators said, is designed to drive business “back to travel agencies.”
The program provides each participating retailer with its own Web site, but except for the individual agencies` logos and other identifiers, all the sites will look alike and provide access to the same destination information and photos.
The sites also will access the same database of travel product information, where customers can search for trip options and fill out trip request forms. A self-booking capability is planned, as well.
The WiredFlyer product line is based on packages offered by Mark Travel Corp. units “because of the fine service the company provides,” according to WiredFlyer president Rick Barton. However, as more agencies join the WiredFlyer network, other suppliers will be added, he noted.
Highlighted destinations initially will be Las Vegas and Mexico, with the Caribbean, Hawaii and ski vacations scheduled to follow. Barton said he knows the WiredFlyer Web model site can bring in business because he and his partners tested it first with their own agency, Make Your Bet Vacations, also based here in the Texas capital. He said the 4-year-old agency, which sold about $5 million in travel last year, generated 24% of that business from its Web site. That was up from 16% of sales in 2000 and 9% in 1999. Barton said the agency`s Web site is hooked up to 600 search engines and can be found with any of 1,465 keywords. It attracted 500,000 visitors last year, he said.
He added that WiredFlyer will have comparable numbers of links, but individual agency participants won`t because, as their numbers grow, too many agency names would appear as a result of a search, to the benefit of none. Instead, Barton said, surfers would use the agency locator element of WiredFlyer to choose an agency based on geography or other characteristics.
At the agency Web sites, there will be no links to any other sites, thus providing each host agency with a “captive audience,” he said.
The booking engine, not yet available, will be eLeisure Network, a product created by Trisept Solutions for use by agencies at their Web sites and providing access to Mark Travel products plus Certified Vacations` brands as well as other operators.
WiredFlyer launched informally last October and counts a dozen early participants now, all in Texas except for one Atlanta agency. The network has another 18 orders for agencies “from New York to here,” Barton said.
Also, the firm already has started some newspaper advertising in Texas to promote the group. Barton projected 200 network members by year`s end, and 5,000 by 2006.
Those joining by June 30 can participate for free—“no strings attached,” he said—for six months. Thereafter, the fee is $330 monthly.
Asked if this network could be seen as competitive to existing trade consortia, Barton shied away from such characterizations, saying WiredFlyer is highly focused on only a limited product line while organizations such as Vacation.com are “all things to all people.”
He said, “We will have lots of buying power,” which WiredFlyer will use to buy products in bulk, but there also is “lots of room for consortia.”