Vail Valley company Travelscream growing in a down economy
Vail, CO, Colorado
Tom Griffin would like to say he foresaw the way his Vail Valley company would grow. Instead, he’ll say only his company is in the right place, at the right time.
Griffin is the co-founder and owner of Travelscream, an Internet travel site that recently consolidated its Aspen and Eagle County offices into one complex in the Riverwalk center in Edwards. The company also has a sales office in New York, and is about to open another in Hong Kong. And the plans for 2009 are ambitious, to say the least.
“We have 2,000 vendors now,” Griffin said. “We’ll be at 20,000 by year’s end.”
So how does a travel company hit the fast-forward button on the growth elevator during a serious national economic slump?
“It’s the year of the deal, and we help people get deals,” said Jonathan Spitz, Travelscream’s new vice president of business development.
Spitz, who has more than 20 years in the travel business ” and is the man responsible for the “One Love” ad campaign for Jamaica ” has been on the job with Travelscream for about a week. But it’s his presence in the company’s New York office that has his boss eager for rapid growth.
Griffin and chief technology officer Rob O’Connor founded Travelscream in 2006, originally as a way to provide information about deals and packages primarily to travel agents.
“In the old days, if you had a great deal, you’d fax it to travel agents or hire travel writers to write about it,” Griffin said. “Now, you can manage what the deals are and where they are, and do it in real time.”
Unlike faxes or mass e-mails, Travelscream is able to send companies information about specific deals resorts and hotels are offering. The secret was creating technology that allows hotels to send their own deals, so they can be more flexible.
“We were surprised by the response,” Griffin said, adding that the “click-through” rate ” the number of people who link their Web browsers to specific deals ” is significantly higher than the industry average.
But while building the original business, Facebook, MySpace and other “social networking” sites caught fire. That’s when Travelscream found itself in the right place at the right time with the right technology in place.
Hotels can create and manage their own deals, but Travelscream can provide subscribers with access to RSS feeds, blogging, guestbooks, maps and other Web tools that have become indispensible for the travel business. Those tools are also useful for sharing information with contacts in social networks.
The difference is in how Travelscream links customers to deals. Thanks to contracts with publications including Fodor’s and National Geographic, resorts can present their specials to potential customers without going to a new browser window, and the publication’s name will stay at the top of the page.
“You want sources you trust,” Griffin said. “People trust Fodor’s.”
The Travelscream model seems to be attracting both clients and people who want to work for the company.
“I’m here literally four days, and my jaw is dropping over this technology,” Spitz said. “This works for travel suppliers, distribution partners and consumers.”
The Travelscream model also drew Kristen Kopplin, the former marketing director at Copper Mountain. Kopplin has spent the last decade in New York and Chicago, but recently moved back to Colorado as Travelscream’s vice president of marketing communications.
“It was an exciting opportunity,” she said. “This is where travel marketing is going. It’s bigger and different than working for traditional marketing companies.:
And, Spitz said, anyone who’s interested in actually making money from the Internet should be in travel.
“Travel is the second-largest revenue generator on line,” Spitz said (pornography is first). “If you’re excited about on line, you’ve got to be in travel.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.