Advisors can use virtual reality as a sales tool with Xplr VR. // © 2017 Xplr VR
Feature image (above): Approach Guides’ TripReads service is a curated collection of videos, music, podcasts and more. // © 2017 Approach Guides
Even the most tech-savvy agents may view the multibillion-dollar travel tech industry as daunting. But travel advisors would be remiss not to learn about the ways in which technology can benefit their business.
Here’s how the following five companies — which have recently been accepted into Virtuoso’s Incubator — are keeping agents in mind.
Established in 2009, Approach Guides provides a portfolio of culture-focused digital travel guides and mobile apps designed for the “ultra-curious” traveler.
The company’s offerings include its Travel Guides, Wine App and Trip Reads content service, which help clients explore a destination through the lens of its culture, history, cuisine and more.
The company’s Travel Guides allow jetsetters to seek out a city’s under-the-radar attractions — such as New York City’s cast-iron architecture — while the Wine App allows oenophiles to discover new varieties through in-depth guides to wine regions, appellations and more.
But it’s the company’s Trip Reads service — a destination’s collection of articles, playlists, videos and more — that the company hopes will be highlighted in the Incubator.
“Ninety-nine percent of the destination content currently available tells travelers what to do,” said Jennifer Raezer, founder and chief marketing officer for the company. “But rather than tell travelers what to do, our curated content gives them a way to understand their destination in a deeper way.”
“We are already seeing the positive impact,” she added. “Together with Virtuoso, we have an opportunity to give travelers an unrivaled appreciation of place. When you’ve got that, special things become possible.”
Say goodbye to Google AdWords and hello to Tagible, a software program that consolidates multimedia travel content across the web — from places such as YouTube, Google Maps and Pinterest — and displays it right on an agency’s website.
When a consumer needs “inspiration, information and validation” about a trip or destination before booking, Tagible eliminates the need to search outside an advisor’s website, said Judah Musick, CEO of the company.
“Google AdWords is driving traffic to pages that are nothing but text on a page, so a traveler starts to open tabs,” he said. “They may go to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor or Google, and the more tabs they open, the less likely they are to return and complete their purchase.”
The program can easily be installed on an advisor’s website, but Musick says the Incubator program has taught him that agents care about more about improving their search-engine optimization (SEO) than simply securing a booking.
“Unlike a tour operator, an advisors’ content is not necessary designed to be sold,” he said. “Instead, their website adds substance and credibility with the objective of building a relationship with a potential prospect.”
Knowing this, Musick says he’s now working with Virtuoso advisors to help them rank highly in Google.
“With internet search so important to the way everyone shops for travel, this is quickly becoming a very important aspect of how we can help advisors with their digital marketing strategy,” Musick said. “All of the visual content we’re adding to their websites not only increases engagement and time on their site, but also gives them credit for having optimized content added to their pages.”
Although key for an agency’s day-to-day operation, a streamlined customer relationship management (CRM) technology is sometimes hard to come by.
That’s where TravelContact comes in.
In addition to an up-to-date client and supplier database, agents who use TravelContact’s CRM platform will have access to an email marketing program, multichannel communication tools, a beginning-to-end itinerary builder and a digital dashboard that displays daily tasks — all in one place.
Ricardo Cazorla, cofounder and CEO of the company, sees Virtuoso as a valuable partner in helping advisors benefit from this database.
“The credibility that Virtuoso has created in the industry allows us to push our product to agency owners and advisors with little push back,” he said. “We hope to create a long-lasting relationship with Virtuoso and its network to continue to provide tools to advisors and owners that simplify their daily operations and improve efficiency.”
Looking for an online social network just for travel enthusiasts? The TripFiles app may be it.
In addition to functioning as a storage cloud — hosting videos and photos at no cost— the app also gives clients a place to build their own profiles; engage publicly or privately with other travelers; auto-create itineraries based on where friends have been; and more.
Although TripFiles has been largely consumer-focused in the past, the company hopes to find space in the travel trade, according to Deslie Quinby, vice president for the company.
“Our product provides trip advice from people you trust vs. everyone,” she said. “We have a similar upscale client base (to Virtuoso), so we hope to learn if there is a role for TripFiles in the agency community.”
For travel specialists, she explained, the platform can provide a fun and easy way to privately share offers for unique travel experiences and participate in a client’s journey without being invasive.
No longer is virtual reality (VR) just for running from zombies or dodging comets in a (way-too-real) galaxy.
With Travelweek Magazine’s Xlpr VR, clients will be transported on an emotionally engaging journey to a destination without actually having to travel there, according to Devin Kinasz, president of Xlpr VR.
“Virtual reality can help attract foot traffic into an agent’s shop, inspire clients to take that next trip and help them make any event they might be hosting more interactive,” Kinasz said. “It inspires clients and engages them on an emotional level, spurring the desire to travel, which an agent can capitalize on.”
The benefit of being in the Incubator is two-fold, she says. Virtuoso advisors will grow their business by using the platform as a sales tool, and suppliers will then recognize VR as “the future of travel marketing.”