With 20,00 unique visitors per month ASTA’s Travelsense.org website is delivering results for travel agents – including serious, qualified leads, according to Bill Maloney, ASTA’s CEO. Established in 2004, Travelsense.org has shown year over year growth in both agent and consumer use.
“While we can’t track total leads generated by Travelsense confirmable anecdotal evidence reports substantial sales (in one case a $30,000 sale), at any time there are about $500,000 worth of leads available to members on the site,” Maloney told Travel Agent.
Access to the site is free to consumers and the lead generating capability is free to ASTA members. Consumers, including families and small groups can get multiple free price quotes from the agents. In 2009, the site averaged 48,000 visitors per month.
This includes cruises, tours, hotels, resorts and car rentals as well as international and domestic destinations – all available in 37 languages. “Travelsense is a global resource refelecting a diversity of product and services ranging from luxury to budget,” Maloney said.
ASTA reports a major increase in consumer requesting assistance. 2009 showed an average of 41 new consumer leads posted each month, whereas 2010 is starting off strong with 63 leads on average being posted each month. Active leads (how many at any given time are live) have doubled in 2010 to an average of 72 active leads.
There is no charge to the consumer or the agent. Maloney says that Travelsense was designed as a public service and is part of ASTA’s ongoing outreach to the traveling public. At the same time it offers agents real business building tools.
Currently, about 3,000 agents use Travelsense.org which has a number of attractive features – for both agents and consumers. Travelsense is far more than a "lead generating system," Maloney says, emerging as a resource for consumers seeking high integrity information on travel.
Travelers can pick their agent by location or specialization and size of budget or by travel dates. They control number of responses they want back and can identify special needs from disabled travel, unsupervised children. They can also request help with basic planning or follow-up on options they have in mind.
Other resources include travel tips, destination articles, consumer travel information and a book store. Consumers can also post photos of their trips online. There is also are also travel videos to spark interest in destinations and tips on how to cope with airline strikes and other consumer issues.
A major advantage of Travelsense.org to consumers is that the agents must be ASTA members and meet ASTA’s standards and subscribe to ASTA’s Code of Ethics. “This is a big plus. It gives travelers the assurance of dealing with established, professional agents,” Maloney said.
From the agents perspective they can select which leads they want to respond to and the relationship including commissions and fees - if any - are at the agent’s discretion. ASTA does not get involved in the transaction. At minimum agents they can expand selectively their client base for future follow-up-up.
Another plus is the ability of agents to showcase their professionalism, offering online background on their agents or agency including special expertise in destinations, trip types or regions. The agent responding can design a specific cruise or tour program or use the products of their preferred suppliers.
What about consumers who are just browsing? Maloney believes the amount of information Travelsense.org asks from consumers will discourage some, but does not see a quick fix for the problem.
“No lead generating system I have seen has totally solved the problem of the random browser or price shopper," Maloney said. "It may ultimately be a test of the agents professional skills to convert the merely curious to the booked passenger.”
Lead generation, accordMaloney says, is increasingly critical to professional agents including using the systems available to them through their consortia or third party suppliers. He also urges use of proven direct mail and email marketing support as a means of generating sales leads.
Maloney notes that ASTA is continuing to invested in Travelsense.org and expand its value to the traveling public and to professional agents. The site is promoted online in search engines such as Google to millions of potential travelers looking for reliable resources.
“We invite non member agents to look at Travelsense.org as one element in a package of services that ASTA provides. One good sales lead a year can pay the agent for membership.”
Travel agents can obtain more information on Travelsense.org and ASTA membership by [email protected].