Thousands of travel agents with specialist destination knowledge are being sought to join an online marketplace due to launch this autumn.

Online travel agent and hotel booking platform TRVL.com has speeded up plans for a consumer website as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

It hopes to throw a lifeline to agents out of work or struggling to generate leads as a result of the pandemic by giving them access to a global audience of online customers.

TRVL.com already has 5,000 agents globally who use its current platform to book hotels through suppliers such as Expedia, Bedsonline, Booking and Priceline.

The new site will allow agents to market themselves in their specialist areas and earn commission when consumers book their recommended hotel.

Agents will also be able to upsell other aspects of a holiday, such as tours and transfers, once consumers have booked their choice of destination or hotel. Consumers will be put in touch with the agent, giving them access to their own ‘personal’ travel expert for any advice or recommendations.

Founder and chief executive Jochem Wijnands, who sold his previous company Prss to Apple in 2014 where it became Apple News, said he was keen to find a further 5,000 agents globally to join the site. So far the company has attracted 5.5 million euros to build the online agent marketplace.

He believes the expertise of many agents has yet to be realised in a large-scale way online. In a survey conducted in April by TRVL, 95.7% of almost 2,000 agents polled voted ‘yes’ to building an online market place for agents.

He said: “We want to bring travel advisers and introduce them to millions of self-bookers. There is evidence people are not happy with the process [of doing all the research and booking themselves].

“We will show hotels recommended by our agents, who could wake up one morning and find they’ve earnt commission because someone has booked based on their recommendation.

“There is a huge opportunity we can take from this crisis. Agents have to enter the gig economy.”

Wijnands said consumers would be able to search the site for their ‘perfect’ agent or search for a hotel based on agents’ recommendations.

Consumers will still book the hotel direct with the site’s partner bedbanks and suppliers, which will pay commission to the agent who recommended their product.

Wijnands added: “The idea is that the hotel comes with an adviser and the traveller is then connected with that agent and can book other activities for them.

“We want to create an experience that means people will not want to go back to booking in the old way [without an agent].”

Agents will be ranked in order of how long they have worked for TRVL and based on the user experience.

TRVL.com, which is working with B2B marketing company Discover the World, said hundreds of agents were already signing up every day.

The planned launch date for the platform is September 1 when it is hoped that travel bookings will start picking up again.

4JuneBanner