SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Visionary marketing executive Mike Salvadore and longtime travel industry leader Dan Burke believe the travel agency model is prime to be disrupted. The business partners are combining their areas of expertise for this week’s launch of Seattle-based 58 Stars (http://www.58StarsTravel.com) – formerly Passport Travel & Tours – a full-service travel agency specializing in custom-crafted luxury travel, and corporate travel, with a personal touch and fresh marketing approach for a new generation of travelers.
58 Stars arrives on the scene two decades after do-it-yourself travel websites disrupted the travel industry in the 1990s and drove travel agencies to what most thought was the brink of extinction. However, with a new generation of travelers – who place a high value on convenience, human connection and unique vacation experiences – for 58 Stars, what’s old is new again as travel agencies nationally are in the midst of a major comeback.
According to data from the American Society of Travel Advisors, Salvadore is clearly on to something – 55 percent of millennials are more likely to hire travel experts to plan a trip, compared to Gen Xers (42%) and Baby Boomers (28%). Further, a 2017-18 Portrait of American Traveler® study by the travel and hospitality firm MMGY Global, reports that 33 percent of millennials intend to utilize the services of a travel agent in the next two years.
“This new generation of travelers has grown up in an era in which convenience and customer service are expected, from cars on demand to home grocery delivery,” says 58 Stars co-owner Mike Salvadore. “The 58 Stars model focuses on high-touch client service and custom-crafted, one-of-a-kind experiences with a locals’ perspective and a luxurious flair that resonate with this generation. We’re a fresh, new take on travel agencies – delivering new options for travelers who increasingly are overwhelmed by the hundreds of do-it-yourself deal-oriented travel sites and who are looking for expert advice and a hassle-free experience.”
Whether its adventure travel, all-inclusive resorts, multigenerational trips, luxury cruises or volunteer vacations, 58 Stars specializes in trips its clients will remember forever – from visiting the great pyramids by camel to sailing the West Indies on a private sailboat to sipping wine in an Italian orchard with one of the world’s most acclaimed vintners followed by a private culinary experience at a countryside villa.
Salvadore and his business partner Burke (who brought Salvadore on as an equal partner and co-owner in his agency, Passport Travel & Tours Inc., which has operated in Kenmore, WA for the past 32 years) have spent the past year developing fresh strategies to create an entirely new travel agency experience, beginning with the rebranding of Passport Travel to 58 Stars. In addition to a new name, 58 Stars features a new and expanded website (soft-launched last week), strategic partnerships including a new travel network consortium, mobile delivery of client itineraries and travel updates, and an exciting new social media presence aimed attracting a new generation of travelers.
58 Stars is also tapping Salvadore’s many years of experiential marketing expertise with plans next year for a unique retail approach to travel marketing which invites consumers to dream by immersing them in the touch, smell and taste of incredible travel experiences around the world.
“The travel agency industry has weathered many storms over the last 30 years and adjusting the business appropriately along the way has kept us on top of our game,” said Burke. “Over the past few years it’s become clear to me that there’s a new generation of travelers that needs to be effectively engaged in more innovative ways than past generations. The question is how to best do that. Mike brings those ideas and together we’re implementing what should be our most exciting chapter yet.”
Salvadore brings more than 20 years’ experience in building businesses and marketing leadership to the new partnership having worked with consumer tech companies and with some of the world’s biggest brands including Amazon, Coca-Cola, Levi’s Microsoft, Patagonia, Southwest Airlines and Toyota. In 2014 Salvadore and his business partners sold their own award-winning marketing, brand and experiential agency 206 Inc. (now AMP Agency) to marketing powerhouse Advantage Solutions.
“The 58 Stars’ partnership between Mike and Dan is a symbiotic relationship between two disciplines which combines marketing savvy with deep travel industry knowledge,” said Dr. Robert W. Joselyn, president and CEO, The Joselyn Consulting Group based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s this holistic approach which is what our industry needs to compete with the travel websites and sets up our industry for future success.”
At their peak in the 1980’s – prior to the emergence of deal-oriented do-it-yourself travel websites in the mid-1990s, 9/11 and the economic crash of 2007 – travel agencies numbered 46,000 with more than 200,000 agents nationally. According to IBISWorld and the U.S. Census Bureau there were approximately 20,807 travel agencies and 105,085 agency employees in 2016 (the most recent data available) – In Washington state, the American Society of Travel Advisors estimates today there are 343 travel agencies employing 2,139 full-time employees; generating $168 million in annual economic impact.
According to a 2016 American Society of Travel Advisors’ survey of 114,000 U.S. households, nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents believed using a travel agent made their overall trip experience better and that travelers are using travel agents at the highest rate (22%) in years. Many in the travel industry attribute the increasing interest in working with travel agencies to growing popularity of custom-crafted travel and luxury travel which typically relies on the expertise of a seasoned travel agent. The survey was supported by Bain & Company’s “Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study Fall-Winter 2016 Report” which points to changing preferences within the luxury consumer market which indicates a shift from retail goods toward experiences such as travel.
About 58 Stars: 58 Stars (formerly Passport Travel & Tours Inc.) is a full-service travel agency specializing in worldwide luxury leisure travel and corporate travel with a personal touch and an emphasis on custom-crafted, one-of-a-kind experiences.
The 58 Stars name is inspired by celestial navigation and its importance to the world’s first travelers – explorers who used the same 58 stars to navigate their journeys around the globe. Likewise, it is with expert guidance that 58 Stars Travel brings the world to its clients.
When it comes to custom-crafted travel, no dream is too big – or too small – for 58 Stars. The world is yours, and when you work with our expert team everything is taken care of for you, from departure to arrival and back again.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Headshots, travel photography and industry quotes/spokespersons available upon request.