Owning an Online City Guide Travel Service

Travel web site aims to bring tourists and locals together.

By Mark Newton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the wake of the dot-bomb disaster, are you feeling just alittle gun-shy about entering the world of Internet commerce?You're not alone. Meet Len Stubbs, a 47-year-old former COO ofa life insurance company, who's looking to book a new career indigital travel. "The travel industry reshaped drasticallyafter 9/11," Stubbs explains. "It's changing from abrick-and-mortar environment to an online environment."

But a shift in the market wasn't enough to allay his fearsabout e-commerce success rates. "You read the horror storiesall the time," he says.

To prevent his entrepreneurial ambitions from becoming adisaster headline, Stubbs aligned himself with franchiseRezcity.com, a portal for 53,000 Web sites with community andtravel information. Franchisees purchase the rights to develop theWeb content for a given ZIP code and get plugged intoRezcity.com's advertising reservoir. From there, it's up tothe franchisee to contact area merchants and organizations to builda localized Web presence. Web surfers nationwide travel to onedomain name and can access city guides compiled by thousands offranchisees. "It's a way to bring people to the site tosee what you've built, what you offer, and that's why thisfranchise made sense to me," Stubbs says.

Franchising at Rezcity.com makes e-commerce less impersonal byproviding a local representative, the franchisee, in eachcommunity. Stubbs says if his potential customers in Hilton HeadIsland, South Carolina, "run into a snag, they actually get totalk to a human being. And we're down the street fromthem."

As community members, franchisees like Stubbs also have theopportunity to approach local nonprofit organizations with apartnership of sorts. How does it work? "If they [use] us astheir home page," Stubbs explains, "we pay them a portionof [our] commissions."

When he's not indulging his inner philanthropist, Stubbs isall business. "The projections here can be huge," hesays. "We've got multiple profit centers in thisorganization." These profit centers include e-commerce,advertising and an online reservation system that allows visitorsto make travel arrangements directly from the Web site. In June2003, Stubbs became one of Rezcity.com's pioneer masterfranchisees, purchasing the rights to dole out the rest of theavailable Rezcity.com domains in South Carolina. With $90,000 grossrevenue projected in the final three quarters of 2003, Stubbs isfeeling pretty optimistic. "There's some great opportunityfor profit-obviously, that's why we do these things," hesays. "But there's also some opportunity for doing socialgood as well, and that's pretty cool."

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