Web Sites Send Client Leads To Agents
January 29, 2001

By Douglas Quinby

NEW YORK -- Looking for some leads? Well, there are now several Web sites aiming to send prospective customers to travel agents.

WeBeenThere.com launched last week with a network of 200 travel specialists and a Web site still under development, joining eGulliver.com, ez2plan.com, 12degrees.com, TravelBreak.com, TripQuote.com and others, in the online lead-generation space.

The N.Y.-based firm, which is offering its service for free to both consumers and agents, expects to earn revenues through selling peripheral products and services to agents who participate in the network, as well as by enabling suppliers to market directly to those agents, said founder and CEO David Feit.

Although the company does not require any kind of institutional accreditation from travel agents such as an IATA or CLIA number, all agents are screened, according to Feit.

Both eGulliver and ez2plan, which launched last year, require some institutional accredidation from travel agents on top of personal screening. Both sites also charge agents a fee on closed sales on a sliding scale of about 2 to 3 percent.

ez2plan, which has a network of about 300 specialists, is exploring different business lines in addition to lead-generation, said founder and CEO Rose Rocchio. The firm is developing group-oriented software to enable groups to plan their own travel, as well as technology for tour operators to manage inventory and reservations to facilitate online distribution.

ez2plan and WeBeenThere are seeking marketing partnerships with travel and consumer portals on the Web to expand their consumer presence, according to both CEOs. eGulliver, which has a network of more than 1,500 specialists, has inked partnerships with Expedia, the America Society of Travel Agents and Amadeus.

12degrees.com is focusing exclusively on the upscale travel market, offering to put consumers in touch with specialists in high-end, customized overseas vacations, said Mark Campbell, vice president of marketing.

The company, which has over 70 destination specialists and 30 guidebook authors, offers two services to consumers. Guidebook authors compose custom itineraries in consultation with clients for a fee of between $75 and $350, while the destination specialists will create and arrange the tour. Destination specialists pay 12degrees 10 percent of the total price of the package upon closure of the sale. Campbell said because of the high price of their market segment, the margins for the specialists are large enough to make such a significant transaction fee viable.