TripAdvisor tests agent-client matchmaker service

For US$199, Reco will connect travellers with 'Travel Designers'

The world’s largest travel website, TripAdvisor, has soft-launched a new platform that matches travellers with a network of qualified ‘Travel Designers’ who create tailored holidays.

Reco, as the service has been branded, is in its infancy and currently being beta-tested in the United States.

Customers using the Reco website (helloreco.com) or app enter a range of search criteria which then pinpoints specific travel specialists who will be able to assist them. Information such as desired holiday destination, travel dates, duration, style of holiday, budget and interests (including luxury) are required for the search and the platform offers a list of suitable matches to assist with curating custom itineraries.

A one-off introduction fee of US$199 (approximately AU$295) is then required to be paid by the client to Reco.

At the moment the Reco website has a list of around 200 Travel Designers, almost all based in America, some of which are members or affiliated with luxury networks such as Virtuoso. Others are industry veterans with 30-plus years of experience as travel agents who are specialists in niche areas and destinations, such as weddings, adventure, and food and wine. Some have less experience but are building up their expertise.

Reco's website landing page

TripAdvisor is remaining tight-lipped on the service, telling PhocusWire that Reco is a “new concept in travel planning that we’re considering rolling out more fully in the coming months.”

LATTE reached out to TripAdvisor for feedback on the platform but did not receive a response before the deadline, however, we can reveal that Reco’s portal is more specific about its debut, stating the service launch coincides “as destinations reopen” no doubt as the world emerges from the COVID lockdowns.

“We want to provide our community with a trusted source to help you get back out there and travel confidently,” the website says.

“With Reco’s expert Trip Designers, you and your trip are in good hands. Reco Trip Designers have deep roots and connections in the places you want to go and within the travel and hospitality industry, so they will offer you ongoing support and be there to get you through any bumps in the road,” a response under the Q&A list states.

Reco’s Travel Designers are provided with a bio to promote their experience and knowledge, list some of their favourite trips and tips, feature references and perks of booking with them, as well as feed into their Instagram profiles.

Meet your Reco match | screen-shot from the Reco website

“We are travel professionals, tapped into a global network of partners and providers who can not only grant access to unexpected experiences and special perks but supply us with intel on how things look on the ground. We can plan, book and coordinate every last detail. But right now, it’s also critical to have a trustworthy advocate who can step in to help if things take an unexpected turn,” the site adds.

Reco’s US$199 fee covers unlimited on-platform messaging and phone calls with the Travel Designer, a personalised travel plan, booking services for accommodations and activities, restaurant recommendations and support.

Travel Designer feedback on Reco

John Rees from J5Travel in North Carolina was contacted by Reco in February to join the starting group of advisors for the platform. J5Travel is an independent affiliate of Gifted Travel Network, a Virtuoso member. He officially signed on in May and confirmed to LATTE the service soft-launched a couple of weeks ago.

Rees said Reco Travel Designers are able to sell products through their usual channels, with the only proviso being all communication must go through the platform once the fee has been paid. There was no fee to be listed and agents keep their commission as usual for bookings, with Reco only holding onto 75% of the initial trip planning fee.

J5Travel’s John and Helen Rees

“Our own trip planning fees are right in line with the Reco pricing, so no existing clients are going to be upset if they come across us on Reco, and we are willing to give up the percentage of the planning fee for solid, pre-qualified leads,” Rees explained to LATTE.

It’s still early days at the moment for Rees and other agents. He said he was yet to have any enquiries but that could also be a result of the COVID crisis.

“I purposely chose my five specialty countries, so as to not be potentially inundated with inquiries (in a normal travel world). I have no idea how many leads Reco will generate as yet, but I am very hopeful that the pre-qualification and the countries I’ve listed (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and South Africa) will set us up with some great potential trips when Americans are ready to travel internationally again, and the rest of the world allows that,” the British expat said.

“If you’d told me six months ago that I’d partner with TripAdvisor, you’d have probably heard my belly laugh in Australia. However, as I talked through their plans with the developer, it genuinely sounds like they want to get behind the travel advisor community.”
– John Rees, J5Travel

“I strongly believe that the value of a good travel advisor has risen immensely this year, and TripAdvisor has recognised this. Many of our clients have been extremely impressed and grateful at how we have advocated for them through the huge swathe of cancellations and rebookings we have had to complete. Plus there have been a couple of “rescue missions” that were successful thankfully.”

Rees added that he believes Reco is aimed at the millennial market, with a sharp app that looks “pretty cool on a mobile phone”.

“[There’s been] no benefits to us yet, but we’re in this for the long haul and remain very positive both on Reco and our main business,” Rees concluded.

New members are also invited to sign up on the Reco website.

Lead image credit: Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

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