Portal Links Travel Agencies Across Breadth of Canada

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Despite receiving mixed results from an integrated campaign aimed at promoting its services to 1,200 Canadian travel agencies, TravelActive.com has succeeded in its main goal of building relationships with agencies in major regions in Canada.

"We wanted to bring in travel agencies from all of the 14 major regions in Canada," said Russell Currie, CEO at TravelActive, Cambridge, Ontario, "because people were coming onto our Web site, looking at specials and wanting to buy, but at times there just wasn't an agency in their community."

The company already had deals with agencies in three regions -- Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, Toronto and Calgary -- and has added at least one agency in 10 of the other regions as a result of the campaign. The one holdout is Regina, Saskatchewan.

A portal for consumers seeking travel specials offered by offline agencies, TravelActive sees 1,500 to 2,000 visitors per week, all of which are required to register to view the deals. Thereafter, consumers can access travel specials on TravelActive or an individual agency's site. Consumers cannot buy directly from TravelActive, but instead must contact the individual travel agency.

"[Some of the larger online travel sites] are cutting out the travel agents," Currie said. "What we're doing is facilitating the exchange of information in the way we feel people are most comfortable purchasing leisure travel products."

TravelActive last month began a direct mail drive to agencies in which it ran a contest that awarded a winning agency in each region a free three-month subscription to its services. Subscription rates are normally $1,000 per year for members of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, or $1,200 for non-ACTA members. Agencies also can pay a monthly fee of $90 for ACTA members and $110 for nonmembers.

The mailing was sent in a standard envelope and included a letter from TravelActive, an endorsement from ACTA and an entry form for the contest. Participating agencies provided a contact person's address, phone number and e-mail address as well as other information.

The mail drive, which cost TravelActive $1,400 in Canadian currency, ended July 16. The response rate has been 1.25 percent, and Currie said the final goal is 5 percent to 10 percent.

TravelActive followed the mailing with e-mails to recipients. So far, only 13 agencies have responded to the e-mails. The company last week also sent faxes to get more agencies to respond. No results were available.

TravelActive also concluded an e-mail campaign this month to attract more agencies in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto. Offering a two-week trial of its services, TravelActive distributed 556 e-mails over three months to agencies in those areas.

Though TravelActive saw a 15 percent response in Kitchener-Waterloo, only 4 percent of the agencies in Toronto responded. The company, which had partnerships with 12 agencies prior to the e-mail campaign, had sought a 10 percent to 15 percent response rate for both regions. Currie said that a company presence in the Kitchener-Waterloo area likely made it easier to close sales with agencies there.

Currie said TravelActive would resend e-mails to the same agencies in Toronto over next week or so. The second round of e-mails will offer the same deal and inform agencies that the campaign is closing.

Meanwhile, TravelActive in August will begin the next phase of its campaign, in which it again will target the major regions of Canada, starting with Vancouver-Lower Fraser Valley, via e-mail and telephone, Currie said.

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