SAN FRANCISCO (07/31/2000) - Unexplored Inc., a provider of travel reservation platforms and online consumer services, announced Monday the creation of Safari.net -- the first of several upcoming sites that the firm hopes will revolutionize travel planning.
Safari.net is the result of a three-way partnership between Unexplored, South African National Parks and AfriCam -- Africa's most visited Web site with more than 40 million page impressions per month. Using Resort Automation, Unexplored's proprietary software platform, the three partners hope to deliver the most comprehensive site yet available to high-end travelers. Safari.net is expected to be up and running by the end of November.
Founded in August of 1999 in San Francisco, Unexplored attempts to secure deals with travel service providers, tour operators and intermediaries throughout the world in order to attract customers in search of luxury off the beaten path.
In the case of Safari.net, Unexplored forged a 5-year agreement with the South African National Parks -- a move designed to gain exclusive access to game reserves and other resources managed by the government agency.
With more than 60 percent of its viewers residing in North America, AfriCam could stand as a crucial link to drawing overseas visitors to the African continent, according to the company. Unexplored hopes to entice users of AfriCam to make Africa their next exotic getaway, said John Gordon, Unexplored's chief technology officer.
"Africa is just starting to come up and be interesting (to travelers)," Gordon said. Luxury travelers want to explore exotic and remote locations more than ever and need a way to do that with safety and ease assured from the start, he said.
With that as the goal, Gordon hopes Safari.net can smooth the vacation planning process. "We saw a niche that needed to be filled in the market place, and that's the supply side of adventure travel," he said.
Through Unexplored's map-based technology, a user can plan a trip to Africa all the way from the initial flight to a balloon ride over a game reserve conducted by an operator with expertise in a specific field. In addition, the user can arrange and alter a travel package with the freedom to change options at any point in the online booking process.
Along the way, the user gains access to an Internet-based personal folder that keeps track of the entire itinerary, including immunization records, hotel bookings or requests for information on a certain topic. Gordon thinks the folder option stands as one of Safari.net's best features.
"The folder becomes a community repository between the guest, tour operators, hotels and service providers," Gordon said.
According to an online travel study conducted by Jupiter Communications Inc., U.S. consumers made $6.5 billion in online travel bookings last year, more than triple the $2.2 billion booked in 1998. The study cites new product offerings and improved functionality from online travel sites as two key reasons for this rise. While online bookings accounted for only 5 percent of the total market for U.S. leisure and unmanaged business travel in 1999, Jupiter predicts a push to 14 percent by 2005.
Niche or mass-market players able to separate themselves from the herd will be most successfully in the growing online travel market, Jupiter said. The study, however, warns that success by one firm in both the niche and mass market travel seems unlikely.
"A very rich content-oriented site will be first out the door, and, in the subsequent months, we will add more and more transactional capabilities," Gordon said. He expects that Unexplored will have fully functional itinerary building capabilities by the first half of 2001.
Unexplored, in San Francisco, can be reached at +1-415-356-2250 or http://www.unexplored.com/.