TheTrip.com’s choice for a content partner for international travel information isn’t exactly a household name, at least not in the U.S. Leisure Planet, the South African travel technology venture, is by its own admission one of the best-kept secrets on the Web.
But that’s going to change on Feb. 8, when Leisure Planet and TheTrip.com are expected to announce an agreement under which Leisure Planet will supply travel data to business travelers on TheTrip.com’s Web site.
Users of the Denver-based corporate travel site will be able to access what’s billed as “extensive detailed information” about international cities. Leisure Planet travel guides include facts on transportation, currency, government, customs, climate, hotels, electricity, and other business-related topics.
“Our customers asked for more in-depth international destination information,” says Brian Thomson, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing for TheTrip.com. “Leisure Planet provides one of the best sources of international destination information available anywhere. We are very excited to be the first major travel site on the Web to offer this quality of international destination information.”
According to Pierre Kleinhans, Leisure Planet’s founder and senior vice president for business development, the arrangement with TheTrip.com is only one of several high-profile content deals that are being announced during the first quarter of this year.
“The company is on an exponential growth curve,” he says.
Already, Leisure Planet has inked contracts to supply hotel and travel content to Carlson Leisure Group’s enQuest.com and to the e-shopping site Infospace.com. The company also is co-branding a full-service Web site with Time Warner’s Pathfinder.com presence. Its European travel clients include Scandinavian Internet service provider Resfeber.se, for which it is supplying hotel booking systems.
Why did those sites pick Leisure Planet over other information partners? Simplicity, for one. The data is easy to access and doesn’t easily overwhelm the reader, says Kleinhans. The company displays five photographs per hotel, giving travelers a depth of information about international properties that other databases don’t. What’s more, he adds, the information is consumer-friendly, because it allows side-by-side comparison of lodgings.
For TheTrip.com, the Leisure Planet announcement is the encore to a very busy January. Last month, TheTrip.com announced a partnership with CBS New Media to link to a new CBS site. It promoted a general release of the company’s IntelliTrip booking plug-in and signed up Hollinger Publishing as a strategic investor.
“This agreement means Leisure Planet is a serious content player in the field of interactive travel,” says Kleinhans. “The Trip.com now has access to good, well-structured destination information for 52 regions, which their other partners were unable to provide. Having a content partner with a truly international focus is becoming increasingly important.”
The pundits have been predicting that 1998 would be the year of partnerships, and the Leisure Planet deal suggests they might be right. But this development also highlights the importance of global content for the interactive travel industry. Having great U.S.-based information won’t cut it any more for a business travel site, and chances are that a leisure site worth its money shouldn’t rest on its domestic travel data much longer.
“Travel sites must continue to grow content,” observes Kleinhans. “Good content adds real and perceived value to a site.”