New Project Launch: website wordpress travel design – dedicated to the design, customization and hosting of travel related websites for travel agencies, bloggers, writers, magazines and suppliers.

Customized theme, with more than 22 plugins to manage the sales pipeline from start to finish.

Features include:

More than 65 hours of coding and design, also integrating a twitter account.

Card Mills, MLM’s and Link Bait

I receive a lot of press releases. Since I do PR for a number of agencies, I like to see what is out there and how things are spun. I like reading them, actually. I can take them “to go” on my Palm and, despite looking like a complete moron when laughing out loud, they can be quite entertaining.

One of the things I look for are headlines that “link bait” – that is, a controversial headline or sound bite that is designed to get people clicking. Most of the time link bait is all hype and no substance, really by design. Sometimes, it is not.

Today came this little jewel:
“Cruise Travelers Are Now Receiving Commission Checks of Up to 15% When Booking Directly With the Cruise Lines”

That one screamed, “click me!” – so I did. I was certain it was another ploy by the suppliers to bypass commissions to our already overworked and underpaid little corner of retail industry commerce.

It ended up being a new spin on an old, tired industry blot. An MLM. A card mill. A promise to pay $20 per month and “go directly to the cruise lines to find the best possible rates, book the cruise, and best of all, earn up to 100% of the commission.”

Since I don’t want to give this outfit anymore web real estate, I won’t publish their web address here. Needless to say, while I applaud their “entrepreneurial spirit” for trying to capitalize on the availability of websites, press releases and a finely tuned, slick press release copy, I am just as tired as every other travel professional that this relegates to the position of “order taker” and “button pusher”.

It takes talent, skill, expertise and training to match the right cruise with the right vacationer. If anyone thinks otherwise, then the next time their vacation goes wrong they should try and call the Internet. Those that work hard for ACC, MCC, ECC and, yes, CTC shouldn’t have to continue to put up with the DIY (do-it-yourself) enablers diluting the respectability of this industry. It is why some very respectable host agencies are labeled unfairly, in my opinion. Its hard enough for the general public to separate the signal from the noise; now we’re starting to see suppliers with a little hearing loss, too.

One small delightful note: Their press release was much better than their website. Mixed in with the “commission calculators”, cheesy open source hacked code and grammatical errors; along with the pirate graphics (apropos, I say), and copy and paste statistics from CLIA, I found the forum. A discussion panel for all those suckers out there ready to plunk down their $20 per month, and take their free cruises. Know what the only topic was?

“Membership Cancellation”

If anyone wants to join their “conversation”, comment on this post and I’ll send you their details via e-mail.



What’s so special about this site?

I got to it via a sponsored Google Ad, looking for “luxury cruises” – which means that this site just paid $2 for me to hit a dead page. Marketing is not “set it and forget it” like the Showtime Rotisserie Grill. You’ve got to watch your PPC ads every single day.

Travel Marketing 2.0

Time was, travel website marketing, let’s call it 1.0, was all about keyword stuffing – that is – sticking a bunch of keywords into a page to trick the search engines into really thinking that your website knew what it was talking about. You’d bring people to you site which was loaded with the logos of vendors and suppliers and travelers would have to sift, search and self-serve to figure out what kind of trip they were looking for. Don’t get me started on Titanic music in the background – is that really an incentive for someone to BUY a CRUISE??? I’ve looked at thousands, literally, maybe even tens of thousands of travel websites and that’s the worst. You know who you are, and you still owe me some money, by the way.

The next version was all about booking engines, content from other sources and duplicate content – which also got everyone nowhere. Everyone had the same website and only the names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. More herd mentality – one guy at lunch says he gets some leads from his website and everyone copies what he’s doing. Guess what? They’re the same 100 travelers shoppping multiple websites and that means you’re getting the SAME LEADS and the guy you had lunch with. Oh, and BTW – they’re all Carnival 3/4 night sailings.

So then we come to travel web marketing 1.75 – google adwords. Buying placement with keywords which essentially promised to level the playing field. It did – but still brought visitors to a couple of roadblocks – the same crappy websites, loaded with the same duplicate content and the same real estate devoted to the same vendors – or – the mega players like travelocity, (who I see EVERYWHERE), Orbitz and the like.

Still, doesn’t help the average travel counselor, right?

Now, its all about the “2.0” craze of marketing – and travel marketing is leading the charge. 2.0 is all about social marketing. Putting reviews, polls, commentary, blogs, forums and wikis in the hands of the travelers that are either at the destination, going to the destination, using the vendor, product or service. Opinions matter, labels matter and simplicity matters. Travelers are more savvy, more connected – and more in need of travel agents than ever. Good ones, with good websites with good content. Come on folks, we can do this. Let’s commit to revamp our websites this year with great stuff that people really care about – not the same old star ratings, the same old deck plans, the same old schlock. Shock people with your own opinions -and ask for theirs! Make it easy for them to connect to you. Write your thoughts down about great trips, ask them for input on the best places to journal, to get a cup of non-Starbucks coffee (although I love a good Cinnamon Dolce latte, don’t get me wrong).


Sometimes You Give It Away

Sometimes you get stuff for free at garage sales. There’s usually a box there with stuff that you, the seller, just can’t bring yourself to charge for. That’s OK – but be sure that you don’t throw a Van Gogh or Renior in there thinking that Aunt June painted it when she was “resting” in her “special place up North” – ya know what I mean? Be sure you know the value of things. Which brings me to another point – why are all the good artists really crazy?

I went to the beach this morning to meditate. We’ve got this awful Red Tide thing happening here lately. Its an algae that sticks to the top of the water and kills fish. The stench was killer, so I drove up to Port A for some Cotter Street Coffee. I love that place – always a smile on their faces and awesome Creme Brulee Lattes and home-baked goodies. Chatting with the owner, she told me she was looking for a way to increase business in the off-season. Naturally, I slipped into consultant mode and asked her if she had considered a coffee service to the locals. Brilliant, she proclaimed, just what she was looking for.

I can’t make coffee, but I can help her get it in people’s hands. I don’t mind giving her this idea from the freebee box because I have an interest in keeping her successful. It’s not selfish, it’s just good commerce. And Good Coffee.