Travel Expert Lands Big Fish and Doles Out Tips for Your European Trip

 Map and atlas publisher Rand McNally, looking to diversify its business, bought Tripology.com in March. John Peters started this year like many entrepreneurs, in desperate need of cash to keep his business running. It didn't help that he was in the online travel business, a sector that dried up along with the economy.

A previously announced financing deal for his Tripology.com travel deals Web site fell through and he had to let his staff go. In a blog item in February, he clearly had hit rock bottom: "This week started out as a very difficult one for me. I had to tell my great team that our newest investor had decided not to fund the company as agreed in December and, as a result, we were all, effective immediately, out of a job."

But he spent each day knocking on doors, until he landed the big fish.

Founder Gives Up CEO Title to Save the Business

Map and atlas publisher Rand McNally, looking to diversify its business, bought Tripology.com in March. The deal meant Peters had to give up his president and CEO role for a VP job, but it saved the business he started three years earlier.

The site continues to offer interactive travel referral services, focused on connecting travelers with qualified and customer-rated travel specialists. Available free to consumers, Tripology.com uses proprietary technology to match traveler requests with travel professionals. Remember travel agents, the people in the industry who can truly find you the right deals without having to make a connection through Wichita, Kansas, are still around.

Tripology.com has developed a community of over 13,800 travel specialists and has processed more than 130,000 trip requests from online travelers since it launched in 2008. For Rand McNally, the purchase fit in with its move to providing more services for travelers, helping them figure out not just where they are, but how to get there.

Booking Trips With Trusted Advisers

"While Rand McNally has traditionally provided the tools and advice for travelers to plan their North American road trips, we are pleased to offer a way for consumers to book their dream trips with trusted advisers in the travel agent community," says Dave Muscatel, CEO of Rand McNally, in a statement announcing the Tripology deal. "With the Tripology acquisition, our company will be uniquely positioned to offer both on-line and off-line advice."

Getting settled in his new offices in Skokie, Ill, Peters took a couple of minutes to give DailyFinance an overview of what U.S. travelers going abroad this summer can expect, given the weak euro and civil unrest in Europe.

DailyFinance: Is the strengthening dollar having any impact on European travel?
Peters: Yes. There are certainly some good values available in Europe this year. However, when compared to the amazing deals of 2009, pricing will seem more normalized. Bottom line: There are deals, and travelers should take advantage of them, because 2011 will bring higher pricing.

How about the unrest?
Protests and strikes are a fairly normal part of European life. Having said that, travelers should be comfortable while traveling and evaluate all situations. Some countries, like Greece, are experiencing financial woes that are leading to strife right now, but all of Europe is working to resolve this problem.

Any advice for those traveling to Europe this summer on getting the most for their money?
2009 was the year of the deal. There was a lot of quality, distressed inventory that travel suppliers priced to move. 2010, however, is the year of value. It's key to stay away from "cheap" because you'll again get what you pay for. As an example, "do it yourself" consumers need to be careful about what appears to be a travel deal online.

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