Travelstar has announced the beta launch of Travelstar.com, a social networking site for leisure travelers, according to Bill Alverson, Travelstar 's chairman and CEO. Travelstar's brands include Joystar, the agency network.
Alverson cited the growth in online social networking and the need for the travel industry to be competitive. "Travelstar.com is a brand new online social network that combines the most popular social networking features. This will enable users to share vacation photos, read and write reviews, interact in traveler forums and blogs about their travel adventures."
"Social networking has become a part of Americans' everyday life. Websites including Myspace.com, Facebook.com, YouTube.com and Meetup.com have attracted hundreds of millions of passionate members to their communities," Travelstar said.
"In addition to the social networking features on Travelstar.com, it will also be a place for travelers to gain access to the travel industry's top travel experts," Alverson said.
"The potential for travel professionals to build their clientele on Travelstar.com is enormous. Social networking and user-generated content will have a greater impact on the travel industry over the next few years than online travel agencies had over the past decade. Those in the industry who recognize this and are willing to act will reap the rewards," stated Alverson.
According to Alverson, travel professionals from all over the nation and from every agency affiliation can build their business on Travelstar.com for free.
"Travelers are searching for information and insight not available in a brochure or on a supplier website. We have created a platform for travel professionals to showcase their knowledge and expertise about a particular product or destination for the world to see. The more they contribute, the greater their exposure to travelers worldwide, Alverson said.
"Our goal is to build an unparalleled expert review database for the world's vacation destinations, resorts and cruise ships. It will take time to organically grow content on the site making it a top resource for travelers. They will be able to read the reviews, interact with experts in travel forums and have the ability to contact the experts directly to make travel bookings."
Alverson also cited recent PhoCusWright research that revealed that the big online travel agencies combined control only 5% of the cruise market.
Online travel agencies now represent more than half of all travel booking in the US, Travelstar said. They are the dominant source for over 60 million Americans when researching their next cruise or vacation. Yet, for all the impact online travel agencies have had on this industry, they still lack the personal advice and human contact consumers desire to complete a complex travel booking.
In a recent survey, Yahoo Travel found that 61 percent of people now go online for vacation recommendations. The study revealed that travelers are no longer just searching for their vacations based on price; they are now making decisions based on reviews, ratings and photos. "We believe travel experts are the missing link in the online travel purchasing cycle," added Alverson. (GD)