Learn What’s New with Passport Online and How it Can Help You!
Interview By: Andy Ogg, Editor and Marketing Director – Travel Professional NEWS
Interviewing: Marilyn Macallair, Vice President – Passport Online
First off, thank you for making the time to sit with us and discuss your exciting news regarding the success of Travel Professionals using your services!
While many Travel Professionals are aware of Passport Online’s services, can you share a bit about your business and products for those who aren’t informed yet?
Passport Online is the leisure travel industry leader in website, web content, email marketing, and social media solutions. We started the company over 20 years ago collecting supplier specials and offers, aggregating them into one database and offering them to travel agents for their websites… which were pretty scarce that many years ago. From there, we began to develop websites for travel agents, email marketing tools, online booking engines and now social media solutions. Our products are now the major distribution channel for leisure travel suppliers to connect with the leading consortia, retail agencies, professional home-based agent networks, and their clients. Through our products, agents are able to gain millions of consumer shopping sessions on the network of thousands of travel agency websites.
It is our mission, as a company, to help today’s travel agents create a digital footprint so their customers can interact with them in all possible digital platforms including websites, social media, email marketing and whatever is on the horizon!
Such great tools you offer, especially in this digital age! In a recent Press Release, you shared some very impactful results of Travel Professionals utilizing your tools saying that engagements were up in every single category. Can you share some more information on that?
Website sales are up more than 60% year over year, with the greatest growth in the full-service product, NexCite². There has also been a rise of nearly 20% in the sale of VacationPort, which is the supplier content only shopping engine and the Datafeed option which is the raw supplier content data as agencies and travel companies create new digital tools such as apps and itinerary planners for their customers.
Social media sales of the ESP Social Media Posting product were also up dramatically. This product had been a free service for existing customers, but demand for content and more customization resulted in converting to a paid product with little to no impact on the customer engagement.
Email marketing programs operated by Passport Online showed a rise in the size of the agency databases. In 2017 the average consumer database was about 1,000 names and in 2018 that has risen to more than 1,900 names. Email marketing still ranks highest as a sales and marketing channel for the agency community.
BOOKING ENGINE TECHNOLOGY:
Passport Online’s booking platform Tandem and its related white label programs, also saw a spike in bookings. Sailed bookings on the b-to-b system were up over 40% in the first half of 2018.
DIGITAL DESTINATION CONTENT:
Based on travel agency requests, Passport Online expanded its destination content options for website and social media customers throughout 2018. Utilizing the company’s reach with a majority of the consortia and host agency organizations, the more than 6,000 travel agency websites and more than 1,500 travel agency business Facebook pages, Passport was able to provide digital presence and create dedicated web pages highlighting unique tours, park offerings and experiences with participating suppliers. Each promotion offered agent education, agent content for their websites, and curated posts for the agency business Facebook pages.
For each destination, Passport Online’s travel agency Facebook customers generated between 150,000 and 250,000 organic views on agency business Facebook pages. More than 535,000 unique consumers on nearly 1,000 travel agency Facebook pages took action and interacted with Facebook posts with likes, comments and shares. There were more than 2.7 million impressions on nearly 2,300 consumer facing travel agency websites. Total views reached almost 1.2 million and social media engagement topped 13,000 likes, comments and shares. The breadth of agency reach included AAA, Nexion, Travel Leaders, American Express, Signature, Virtuoso, Mast, Nest, TravelSavers, Ensemble, WESTA and more.
We work hard with our consortia, host agencies, individual agencies and independent consultants to make sure they have the right solution for their business needs. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and the fact that it is now a “given” that travel agents must have a digital presence.
Do Agents utilizing your tools typically see a conversion from this engagement to sales?
Absolutely. Our tools are designed to help start the process but we all know majority of the sales will be closed by the personal relationship between the leisure travel professional and their customer. We are simply the facilitator to get the customer thinking, and dreaming and shopping but the final call to action is ALWAYS right back to their personal travel agent.
With 2019 around the corner, do you all have any new products or services on the horizon to further assist Travel Professionals?
We are always responsive to our customers and they communicate with us. We have added products such as our destination portfolio and Agent DNA for their websites and we have enhanced our ESP product all based on agent feedback.
We have just recently announced some new initiatives designed to help support the digital identity needs of the growing independent agent population. We now offer a website and social media package designed to help individual agents create their online identity and engage with their customers.
We are also enhancing our email marketing tools, recognizing that in today’s environment email is still the biggest driver of interest for our customers and new and customizable email content is critically important.
With all your experience, what advice do you offer to a Travel Professional looking to grow their business?
I think today’s travel agent needs to look at the way they shop and interact with businesses. We all have different methods of searching for something we want, for shopping and for buying. We need to be sure we are everywhere our customers want us to be. We need to be willing to communicate in whatever way that customer desires. And our goal is to help provide those tools in a simple, plug and play way. The agent should be focused on selling, not on developing tech solutions or digital solutions. We can do that to help them showcase their travel talents.
Before we conclude, do you have anything you’d like to share with our Travel Professional NEWS readers?
Stay engaged. Shop on your own website to make sure it is relevant, up to date, displays images and information about YOU. Use social media; reach out to be sure you are wherever your customers want to communicate and be sure you are displaying your value and relevance to existing customers and to to the younger generations so they can understand the value that you bring to travel planning.
Thank you so much for the time today, as well as the exciting information you’ve shared. As always, it’s great to chat with you and thank you again for the time and amazing information!