Agency directory TripWitt plans to grow old-fashioned way -- slowlyNewsBy Dennis Schaal | February 16, 2010Share This article was originally published on Here comes another travel agent directory for consumers, TripWitt.com, which launched in December, a couple of months before lead-generation service Tripology suspended its services.But, TripWitt President and CEO Celeste Koutavas says TripWitt is taking a different, sustainable path."We plan on growing steadily and staying the course," Koutavas says.While Tripology landed some $1.5 million in funding from investors and advertised heavily in branding and lead-generation, Koutavas says TripWitt is in start-up mode without big-time investors and will shun pay-per click advertising for now in favor of search-engine optimization and organic growth.With three "mostly full-time" employees, TripWitt doesn't have a "huge investor," Koutavas says, adding, "I don't think it is worth it today."She adds that with technology being as accessible as it is today, companies may be able to grow slowly and avoid the pitfalls of being overly reliant on a couple of investors.Koutavas says TripWitt is privately funded and "it is safe to say" that the start-up has less money to burn than Tripology's reported $1.5 million in funding.TripWitt is free for consumers and pairs them with travel agent specialists, who pay an annual fee for a professional page with photos, website and social media links, and phone numbers.Here's a peak at what cruise specialist Shona Noble's TripWitt page looks like.TripWitt hopes to educate consumers -- most of whom wouldn't necessarily be hardcore online bookers -- about the value in booking vacations with an experienced, often-certified specialist.Koutavas says travel is hard to optimize through pay-per-click advertising as keywords like vacations, cheap vacations and cruises cost boatloads of money.TripWitt, which uses an SEO consultant, plans to engage in "smart search engine optimization" by having good content, establishing "equitable links," using social media and press releases, Koutavas says."We want to give travel writers something to talk about," she adds.Although she won't provide the details because "no ink is signed yet," Koutavas says TripWitt plans to forge ties with travel agency consortia and travel suppliers.For vendors, she says, consumers could click on their homepage logo and it would populate with travel agent specialists certified to sell their travel inventory.The plan is to target a niche travel market.Says Koutavas: "We are trying to teach the consumer to shop smarter and not just shop."TripWitt is digging in for an elongated process.