Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Zicasso Provides Hassle-Free Online Trip Planning Service That Gives Travelers Multiple, Personalized Itinerary Bids

Zicasso Provides Hassle-Free Online Trip Planning Service That Gives Travelers Multiple, Personalized Itinerary Bids

Free Service Blends Web 2.0 Tools with Offline Travel Expertise from Multiple, Pre-Qualified Travel Companies

Mountain View, CA (PRWEB) March 10, 2008

Zicasso (http://www. zicasso. com), a new online travel service, announced that it has formally unveiled its services to the public today. Aimed at alleviating the time-intensive effort of planning and booking trips beyond a simple single stop, Zicasso's free personalized online travel service quickly connects travelers to a carefully-selected global network of quality travel companies that compete for the travelers' business.

By matching travelers to multiple, relevant tour operators (http://www. zicasso. com/explore/travel-company) and travel agencies (http://www. zicasso. com/explore/travel-company), Zicasso gives travelers a convenient way to get personalized itinerary bids, refine the itineraries as necessary with the help of expert professionals, and choose the most suitable one--all within a Web 2.0 environment.

Ideal for busy, discerning travelers who want a hassle-free trip planning and booking experience, newcomer Zicasso aims to close a gap in the need for personalization in online travel. Recent studies by market researchers PhoCusWright and Forrester Research point to a trend of more travelers, for the first time, using offline personalized services to plan and book their travel. Conversely, fewer travelers are booking their travel online.

This trend is in part because established online travel agencies (OTAs), whose reservation systems are based on aging technology, cannot provide personalized services when consumers' needs exceed a "simple trip" (i. e., a single flight and hotel). Users of OTAs therefore typically have to sort through long lists of options that may or may not fit their needs or budget. Alternatively, travelers can turn to the services of a tour operator or travel agency, but this still requires investing time to find a good one with relevant expertise, and then communicating back and forth among the travel companies to request, receive and compare quotes and sometimes taking a leap of faith.

To address the benefits of online convenience and the need for personalization, Zicasso combines online Web 2.0 tools with offline personalized services from competing, pre-qualified travel companies. Professionals from these companies apply their expertise and local knowledge of the destination to create itineraries fully personalized around the traveler's needs and budget. Unlike OTAs that can only book a limited number of services, the itineraries delivered on Zicasso are comprehensive and can include accommodations, all forms of transportation (including flights, car rentals, rail, cruises, ferries), drivers, tour guides, tickets to attractions or events, etc.

"Zicasso's blended approach is really the best of both the online and offline worlds," said Brian K. Y. Tan, founder and CEO of Zicasso. "This unique approach of hassle-free trip planning delivers what busy, discerning travelers ultimately want: authentic, quality travel experiences at the best value without spending lots of time on planning."

To ensure quality, Zicasso spent thousands of hours to pre-qualify and select each tour operator and travel agent member. The company's hand-picked network currently comprises more than 100 quality travel companies, from over 40 countries, specializing in more than 100 destination countries.

Travelers Save Time and Money; Privacy Protected
With Zicasso, travelers fill out a simple Trip Request form online to describe the trip they would like to take. A traveler can then expect to receive, typically within two business days, up to four personalized itinerary bids (http://www. zicasso. com/trip-lifecycle) from competing travel companies to review. Using Zicasso's online tools, such as its message system and dashboard that summarizes the bids, travelers can then compare, organize, and work with the travel companies to refine the itineraries as necessary. The traveler can then purchase the itinerary they like best; however, there is no obligation to buy and no charge to use the service.

For privacy protection, Zicasso does not sell or provide the traveler's contact information to any third parties or its travel company partners--all itineraries are submitted online without the need for Zicasso to disclose the traveler's contact information.

In addition to the benefit of saving time with Zicasso's hassle-free approach, travelers also save money by being able to select the best value from competing travel companies. Furthermore, travelers can enjoy some of the best pricing on hotels and tours as a result of tour operators and travel agencies that specialize in specific destinations and can secure volume "preferred rates," which can often be more than 20% lower than hotel rack rates.

First Site for Ratings and Reviews on Tour Operators and Travel Agencies
As the first site to provide community ratings and reviews of tour operators and travel agencies, Zicasso is going a step further to ensure the integrity of user feedback. Only travelers who purchased a trip on Zicasso can provide a rating and review, which motivate the travel companies to provide quality service and build a strong online reputation.

A community discussion forum, "Travel Answers" (http://www. zicasso. com/page/travel-answers), lets both travelers and travel companies ask and answer questions, exchange tips, and help each other out. Travelers will have an opportunity to ask advice from local experts working at travel companies. Other community features include an ongoing travel photo competition (http://www. zicasso. com/photo-competition), profiles for travelers and travel companies, travel blogs, photo-sharing, and the ability to tag content for easier searches.

Zicasso Empowers Travel Companies to Reach Global Market
Zicasso's service empowers quality tour operators and travel agencies, no matter their location or size, to more readily reach a global audience and expand their businesses. Zicasso's streamlined process enables travel companies to not only receive free, relevant leads but be more efficient with their time in gaining a better understanding of prospective travelers' preferences.

About Zicasso
Zicasso is a first-of-a-kind online travel service that combines the best of online Web 2.0 tools with offline personalized services from expert tour operators and travel agencies. Zicasso saves travelers time and money by matching them to pre-qualified, quality travel companies that compete to provide personalized itinerary bids, all within an online Web 2.0 environment. Zicasso's free online travel service gives busy, discerning consumers a hassle-free way to obtain authentic, quality travel experiences, at the best value. Based in Mountain View, CA, Zicasso is a privately-held company. For more information, please visit www. zicasso. com.

Editor's Note: Artwork available upon request.

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