A new web platform is promising indepdendent high street travel agents a presence on the web to match the quality of their in-store offering.
Since becoming available to agents in June Net Effect has launched systems for 35 agents including a number of high-profile local independents such as Traveltime, Tickets Anywhere and Full Circle Travel.
Nine more are in development and one of the more recent agents to sign up is the award-winning Haslemere Travel and an unnamed agent in New York, indicating Net Effect’s international ambitions.
Kent Laws, who co-founded the company with fellow former Simply Travel colleague Steve Rushton, said the concept was to give agents the web presence they have struggled to forge at an affordable rate.
Net Effects charges a £300 initial set up cost and then £100 monthly subscription while operators are not charged to have their content on the system.
Laws said: “Both Steve and I were tour operators and we were looking at how as an operator we communicated with travel agents.
“No matter what any tour operator says the trade does make up a significant portion of anybody’s business and we all know how tight margins are.
“A typical operator might have about 45% repeat and recommended business, and anywhere between 10% and 30% will be trade and the rest is new businesses.
“The trade can be the difference between you making profit or not, so if you do not have that relationship with the trade you are pretty much not in business.”
Laws said agents do not have the time to read every email or promote every offer sent by operators or to make sure their websites, if they have one, are kept up to date.
So Net Effect spent the first six months of its existence compiling what it believes is the most comprehensive selection of holidays provided by, to date,l53 independent operators.
It currently has 2,500 holidays loaded from the likes of Kuoni, Western & Oriental, Cox and Kings and Kirker but that number could be nearer 6,000 when the backlog of inventory is loaded from other operators keen to be on the system.
Net Effects is taking XML feeds from operators that can provide them and, if not, loading the product manually.
It then offers agents the opportunity to vastly improve their websites adding holiday search functionality and a ‘featured holiday’ section of special offers.
Basic filters are available to hone the search and customers are pushed to make an enquiry either over the phone or via an email form integrated into the site.
Laws said one of the advantages of the system is that the entire agent website can be fully branded and tailored to its requirements and agents do not need to worry about keeping it updated.
“Independent agent owner managers do not have the time, money or expertise to be able to produce this sort of significant web presence. It takes 10 minutes desk research to work that out,” he said.
“We have created one if not the largest database of specialist products anywhere and also a web platform that utilises that content to create either entire sites or search functionality at a price which is unbeatable in the market.”
Laws described Net Effect as the 2011 digital version of the brochure sticker that have been traditionally used to prompt consumers to book with their travel agent.
Niall Douglas, managing director of Full Circle Travel, said: “Net Effect provide an affordable but very professional solution to travel agents wanting to improve their online presence.”
Conscious of Google’s downgrading of sites with duplicate content, Net Effects does not index product pages but does work with agents on social media and other ways to improve ranking, such as reviews and Google Places. One example of an agent that has made the most of this is Easytravel in Malvern.
Net Effects also give agents the opportunity for its travel agents’ fans to search for holidays on social networking site Facebook.
Laws said: “For many agents the web has been the elephant in the room. They know it’s something they have to tackle but haven’t had the time or the budget. This is a turnkey product.”
Net Effect is currently working on its ski and cruise products tailoring those to the particular sectors and says it is happy to consider any operators who want to be featured, but will remain focused on non-mainstream product.