Interview By: Joanie Ogg, Co Founder & Editor for Travel Professional NEWS
Interviewing: Marilyn Macallair, Vice President Business Development
First and foremost, thank you for your time and insight! Can you share some background and company information about Passport Online?
It started with a simple idea: get travel information and “specials” that came into a travel agency’s office from leisure suppliers into the hands (and minds) of their consumers as consistently and easily as possible. In the early days of leisure travel promotion, it was all about the brochure. Boxes of pamphlets, booklets and other marketing materials would stack up in travel agencies and not always get to the consumer. And then there were the faxes… dozens of them came into a travel agency each day with the latest supplier promotions. The founders of Passport Online knew that there was a better way to get supplier information to the consumer.
And it was all based on harnessing the technology available.
At the beginning of Passport Online’s journey, much of the work was done manually. Promotions were aggregated then distributed by CD-ROM, bulletin boards and other technology solutions that could help present a supplier in the best light.
Then, this “Internet thing” took flight.
Over the past 20+ years, Passport Online has grown and evolved into the leader in technology solutions for the leisure travel industry. We power more than 6,000 agency websites, 1,200 agency Facebook Pages, and aggregate and distribute content from 100 of the industry’s leading leisure suppliers. We’ve come a long way from those CD-ROMs!
Can you share a bit of history about your industry experience and your role at Passport Online?
I hesitate to be honest here but I’ve been in the travel industry for 40 years, starting my career in the sales department with Sheraton Hotels. From Continental Airlines to SatoTravel — and stops along the way at other leisure and corporate travel companies, I have always been in the sales and marketing side of the business. Now I head up the Marketing, Business Development and Social Media team at Passport and love blending the personal relationship and high touch customer interaction with technology to achieve success for all. It is so personally rewarding for me to see the travel agency community embracing and challenging technology to help grow their businesses.
What products and services does Passport Online currently offer to Travel Professionals?
Passport Online’s suite of website solutions includes travel offers from nearly 100 leading leisure travel suppliers, social media integration, a full portfolio of rich media destination content, electronic marketing tools. All are mobile responsive. Supplier content includes the major ocean and river cruise lines’ as well as tour wholesalers, vacation packagers and key resorts.
NexCite, our custom designed, mobile responsive website solution has been adopted by over 3,000 travel agencies. The Host Agency NexCite program provides an affordable website presence to 3,000 ICs.
We also offer a content-only solution, VacationPort, to those agencies who have an existing website but would like to offer a shopping experience to their consumers with rich media and supplier content that they don’t have to update or fool with. We update the content every evening.
Tandem is our online booking platform which can be added to either NexCite or VacationPort for an additional monthly fee. Tandem is both a B2C and B2B booking engine offering 20 bookable cruise lines and land vacations. Tandem Agent Central, our B2B only platform, has been adopted and customized by Amadeus as their cruise booking engine and by key consortia.
Finally, in a response to the surge in social media involvement, we developed an innovative posting program called ESP which curates relevant content, queues that content up and schedules it to post directly to an agents’ Facebook page daily. ESP has been adopted by over 1,200 individual travel professionals and we are in the process of adding new features.
We understand you have a new product offering for Travel Professionals called AGENT DNA. Can you share more about how this will enable the travel professionals to grow their respective businesses?
As I have stated, we have been providing travel agency website tools for more than 20 years. We know that effective websites need to provide custom content and shoppable supplier content. We also know that the demands of running a travel agency limit the time and learning necessary to create these elements professionally in-house. Today’s travel agency customers want to know who they are working with, why they are experts and what they will offer to their vacation planning experience. Agent DNA is a customized profile highlighting the specific experiences, specialties, and personal information of each agency advisor. The advisor completes a simple online form and our system will automatically build a fully integrated, visually appealing agent biography for a single agent or for the entire agency. Our development team created a customizable profile form that enables agents to include as much information as they choose. Profile prompts include options for: specializations, favorite destinations, industry years and experience, testimonials, a profile photo, contact information, social media links, travel history and upcoming trips. Future enhancements will include the ability to add a blog directly to the page which an agent can update at any time.
To view the new Agent DNA pages on a customer website, click http://nexcitetravel.vacationport.net/Info/Directory/52727?mid=52727]
Is there a cost associated with this new offering?
Agent DNA is available free of charge to all NexCite², Host Agency and VacationPort customers. We are currently developing a stand-alone version of Agent DNA to enable travel agencies with their own website to add this feature. Release of that product and individual pricing will be available by year’s end.
How does a Travel Professional get more information about AGENT DNA and Passport Online?
Contact [email protected] or call 503-626-7766 option #1
We can’t thank you enough for your time, expertise and information about what’s new at Passport Online! Do you have any last words you may like to share with the readers of Travel Professional NEWS?
We appreciate this opportunity to speak with the travel professionals who read this publication. We know you work hard for your clients every day and our goal is to help you have the most professional, most effective digital presence for your travel agency business. We welcome any questions or comments associated with our products and services.