Joystar Inc. recently announced the consumer launch of VacationCompare.com, a leisure travel comparison shopping web site that hopes to save consumers a chunk of change and provide leads to member agencies.
The thinking behind the move is that because both consumers and retailers are embracing online comparison shopping with such consumer product comparison sites as Nextag and Shopzilla, and online travel comparison sites, including Kayak, Mobissimo and Sidestep, that they'd relish the opportunity for comparing agencies' bids on their upcoming travel plans.
Joystar Chairman and CEO William M. Alverson compared the site to what the Lendingtree.com service offers consumers shopping for a home loan. And after the consumer has made his or her choice, the winning agency handles the booking and customer service offline.
Agents Receive Bids Based on Experience, Not Price
Although it may appear to be encouraging discounting, Alverson says the bid process by which leads are handed out is based on experience, and not the best deal.
"It's not encouraging agents to discount at all," Alverson says. "They pay a fee, and after 12 months, that client is theirs forever. We are saving them the time and the energy of trying to find potential clients. We match the client up with the best candidate (agency). It all depends on who we think is best suited for the sale."
Although a percentage of the base fare earned by agents is paid to Joystar, all future business after 12 months with that client is between the client and the agent—something Joystar agency members, who are the only agents eligible for the leads, say is well worth the initial fee. Visit www.vacationcompare.com to access the new site
"I think it's a win-win situation," says Jim
Mason, manager of The Cruise Planner, based in
"I think it's a good idea, matching everyone with
agents who have their own expertise," says Reina Sachs, co-owner of Bits
of Paradise, a Joystar agency that sells land and cruise vacations and is based
Examples of how VacationCompare.com electronically passes consumers' request for quotes to the independent travel agencies in its network that are experts in their respective fields: When consumers request a quote for a Carnival cruise, it will be Carnival specialists who compete for their business; Mexico requests will go to Mexico experts; and luxury travel requests will only be handled by travel agencies in the VacationCompare.com network who have experience working with affluent travelers. Once the consumer makes his or her decision, the winning agency services the booking, and manages the customer relationship from that point on.
For its part, VacationCompare.com gets paid a referral fee from the agency that wins the bid. VacationCompare.com charges a success fee of 2.5 percent of the base fare when the agency wins the booking—rather than upfront advertising expenses associated with print advertising and the online industry standard cost per click model.
"I think it will save (agencies) money in the long run," Sachs says. "You can spend less for advertising, for marketing; that all costs money when you're talking about finding a lead."
If the agent makes another deal with the client in the next 12 months, Joystar also gets a fee for that sale. But after a year, the client and the agent have their own relationship.
The web site will continue to expand its functionality over the next several weeks, leading up to the formal launch—a full ad campaign, Alverson says. Included will be "expert reviews" of supplier products submitted by the travel agencies in theVacationCompare.com network.
In addition, clients will have the ability to submit reviews of both the supplier products and the agency they booked with upon returning from their vacations.
This service will allow consumers to be able to see the
service ratings of the participating travel agencies. If an agency in the
network falls below accepted service standards, it will not be allowed to
participate in the future, according to Alverson.