Just two weeks after its official launch on Nov. 4, ZipSetGo.com
—a travel resource geared toward corporate meeting and incentive planners—was already tapped to participate in the Travel Innovation Summit, PhoCusWright's prestigious annual technology conference, taking place in Orlando this week, where about 30 new online companies are recognized for offering solutions that are poised to significantly impact travel planning and purchases.
"We're quite honored to be here and be recognized as business innovators as well as for technology innovation, especially considering that everything happened in less than three weeks," says April Mescher, ZipSetGo.com's VP of sales and alliances.One-Stop-Shop for Planners
The idea behind ZipSetGo.com, which was developed by Excellence in Motivation (EIM), a Dayton, Ohio–based performance-improvement company, is to offer vetted content about destinations, planning tips, and sample itineraries and themes from past successful meeting and incentive programs, married with social media tools (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so far) to create a community of informed planning professionals where they can ask questions and share resources.
"ZipSetGo.com can help planners save time. One of the reasons we started this company is because there's a squeeze on resources to do the amount of research necessary to find the right hotels, restaurants and venues to use [in a meeting or incentive program]," says Mescher, who's also the executive director of the travel division at EIM.
"Expectations haven't changed in our world, but the resources have," she adds. "Instead of fifteen planners in your department, there may now be only five. They can't spend a ton of time on the phone; they need a one-stop-shop. We asked, 'How can we help our market plan travel fast?' We compiled the top destinations, but we also offer the real deal—such as whether the Wi-Fi is spotty at a hotel, if there are other issues with technology, or if banquet services are fine but the food is just adequate. We include what we felt worked well—and what we felt didn't—in actual operated programs, and what the planner needs to be aware of."
Mescher, along with Rachel Wolery, travel director and account administrator at EIM, and Sara Beth Garner, also a travel director at EIM, comprise the Go-Girls, the site's travel experts and bloggers. Content is licensed from EIM.Present and Future Features
The site currently offers information on about 20 destinations. The goal, according to Mescher, is to have 100 by the end of the year.
While the overview and activities sections tend to give a good feel for each place, some of the hotel and restaurant sections are a bit limited (e.g. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Thailand, Bora Bora, Costa Rica, San Francisco). Also, for restaurants, it would be helpful to include whether there are private dining rooms available, and what the ideal group size is, for each venue listed. Hopefully these will be expanded upon over time.
Still, it's been just six months since ZipSetGo.com was even conceived, and the company's ambitious plans are to see it reach full integration by the end of summer 2010.
A merchandise/shopping component will be added in a few weeks, for room gifts and travel gear. "We're always on the go and able to see what's hot—what people are reading, what bags they're carrying—and connect them through to Amazon.com to purchase directly," says Mescher. "We're also able to pass along savings on bulk purchases due to the company's EIM connection."
Then it's integrating cruises into the mix. The last phase will add more options for community involvement and Web crawlers to pull information off other sites to offer more comprehensive content and "here's why we're saying you should go here," adds Mescher.Membership
Planners can gain access to this information one of two ways:Free Membership
, which includes a sample travel itinerary, a limited number of destination overviews and planning tips, samples of successful program theme names, social media networking, the "Passport" newsletter, and the ability to share comments on the site's content;Business Membership
—$9.99 per month or $99.99 for one year—which also includes multiple downloadable itineraries for each destination and any budget, downloadable one-page destination fact sheets, "Don't Forget to Ask" tips, a full list of successful program theme names, and new deal alerts.
"Most members are signing up for the year. We wanted a price point that we felt planners could afford themselves if their company wouldn't pay for a membership," says Mescher, adding that just because the site was created with corporate meeting and incentive planners in mind, travel junkies can join and benefit from the content as well.
And even though ZipSetGo is a subsidiary of EIM, the companies are separate. "We're not selling anything other than intellectual capital," says Mescher, when asked about whether planners might be steered toward ZipSetGo's parent. "We're not selling EIM, or Maritz, or Carlson. I want everyone to be part of our community to keep America traveling. The whole world is moving toward collaborating and information sharing. I would love to have Maritz [planners] join and know what they have to say about certain destinations."Source: Incentive Magazine