A travel search engine that lets customers build “wish lists” wants to bring together destinations, consumers and travel agents in one online market place.
Start-up Spinning Globe has three main goals: To alert destinations to consumers who may never have considered going before, to train the travel trade with ‘virtual fam trips’ online, and to give agents a voice to reach their customers via the web.
The team, currently based at the Traveltech Labs in London, is convinced it will fill a gap in the market.
Founder Gary Jacobs, who been involved in marketing in travel since 1993, said: “I’ve realised that the sectors, from destinations to travel agents through to airlines, car hire and the consumer, is now more of a challenge than before.
“If you go online and look at a number of sites, you have to tell them where you want to go and what you want to do. And research shows customers visit 20 websites before they start the booking process” [some studies have shown that travellers visit 38 sites before booking].
Jacobs also said destinations were driven by targets to attract visitors and increase tourists’ spend but didn’t know where to focus their campaigns – and claimed that “95% of marketing is misplaced”.
“We are allowing consumers to find content and ideas about their holidays through search which is relevant to them,” he said, adding that Spinning Globe can help consumers find destinations “they didn’t even know existed” while destinations can glean data they have “never had before” that shows trends from tourists in real-time as they search.
In a nutshell: “Spinning Globe takes inspirational content from tourist boards and allows the consumer to draw up their own itinerary.”
A quick run-through of the beta site from operations manager Rory Duff showed that Spinning Globe users are asked to set up a profile, and choose ‘topics’ that they are interested in – which include safari, honeymoon, cruise, backpacking, adventure, sports , golf and camping.
The next screen then shows you destinations you might like based on your interests and gives you information in text and video format – and you can add destinations that tickle your fancy to your wish list.
Your wish list is designed in a calendar format and can be altered using a drag and drop method.
Once you have a rough idea for a trip, the travel agent can use the marketplace to pitch their suggested itineraries to the customer. Those who have completed more training will become destination experts so are in line to attract more business.
Jacobs was keen to point out that Spinning Globe would not prioritise one travel agent or destination, but said: “We want to make sure that the consumer talks to a travel agent who knows what they are doing.”
“We are not a comparison site and we will never sell holidays,” he said. “We want to be the go-to place for anything you want to know about a destination in travel.”
So why not just Google it? Jacobs says: “If you go on Google and look for a 14-night holiday in Thailand, you’re going to get 38 million results. Most of them are going to come from Trip Advisor or Expedia. You get what they want to sell you rather than building your own itinerary.”
Thailand is the test destination for Spinning Globe, and 700 combinations of itineraries are already available in the website’s beta phase.
More than 100 destinations have signed letters of understanding to provide content to the platform once it is fully launched and Spinning Globe is currently on the lookout for further investment.
It also plans to “re-invent” travel agents training by bringing it online with “virtual fam trips”.
Jacobs said: “Online travel training is so inflexible at the moment and we want to explore how they can be done in a more interesting way. Destinations spend huge chunks of their budgets on taking travel agents on fam trips and they are limited in how many they can host.
“So we will replicate exactly what a physical fam trip would be, using video imagery (and in the future, virtual reality). You can have a virtual trip, whether that’s an aircraft, hotel or beach. Instead of training 100 staff, you train everybody.
“A lot of travel agencies are not going to send their trainees on trips, so why not create basic training that everyone can do? We just have to make it interesting.”
Spinning Globe is hoping that by creating the platform for travel agents, destinations and consumers they will fit seamlessly together.