Jetsetter tests travel writer trip planning serviceNewsBy Dennis Schaal | January 12, 2011Share This article was originally published on Jetsetter is testing an ask a travel writer program, which pairs journalists and travelers interested in receiving destination advice.The paid research program, which Jetsetter calls its Expert Planning Service, was introduced to employees' families and friends in late October and is now in the early stages of a three- to six-month beta. Jetsetter has contacted a select group of customers, who have booked hotel rooms on Jetsetter, about the program.Here's basically how it works:Customers fill out a form seeking advice about a particular destination or type of trip, say a Mexico vacation or an adventure vacation to anywhere.A staff of two Jetsetter employees pairs the traveler with a travel writer from Jetsetter's roster of some 200 correspondents.Many of the travel writers work for high-profile travel magazines, appear on TV or have written travel guidebooks, for instance.The travelers pay a fee that usually is in the $125 to $150 range, although it has gone as high as $200 for at least one extensive trip. The writers share a portion of the fee with Jetsetter.The travelers talk on the phone with the writer for about an hour and outline their trip goals. And, then the writers spend around another four hours or more researching the trip and providing the travelers with specific destination, hotel, restaurant, bar and tour recommendations.Some of the hotel recommendations may be for Jetsetter partner hotels, says spokeswoman Kellie Pelletier, but they don't have to be -- especially if the traveler is taking an extended trip to a variety of destinations.The travel writers can make hotel reservations for travelers and although they sometimes give advice about flights, they won't be making airline reservations, Pelletier says."We are not going down that road," she adds.Pelletier says the travel writers all have stayed at the hotels they are recommending and visited the restaurants and bars they are pointing to."They've slept in the beds, eaten the food and participated on the tours," says Drew Patterson, Jetsetter founder and CEO.Rather than using a travel agent, Jetsetter's Expert Planning Service is the type of trip-planning service that many of Jetsetter's customers are looking for, Pelletier says.Jetsetter is keeping all options open, however, and the Expert Planning Service may look much different in three to six months when the beta ends, Pelletier says.The program is sort of a lead-generation service for travel writers, similar in its broad outlines to lead-generation services for travel agents.Jetsetter doesn't view it that way, saying the writers have been trained on Jetsetter review manuals and will only be used for planning services. Jetsetter considers the program as an extension of personalized services it can provide its customers.To date, the writers have planned more than 30 trips for Jetsetter customers, and all of the trips have been international ones, with the exceptions of a Florida vacation and a sojourn to Hawaii.The trips have included "a vacation in Nicaragua for a group of friends, a hip design hotel and surf lessons in Hawaii and even an R&R trip in Australia for a U.S. Marine and his girlfriend," Jetsetter says.Pelletier says Jetsetter would welcome more travel writers participating in its Expert Planning Service.The Expert Planning Service beta coincides with the soft launch of Jetsetter 24/7, with Jetsetter supplementing its flash sales of hotels with a retail offering. Members of the private sales site can search for limited-time flash sales of hotels or use an All Vacations tab to search for properties on a retail basis.Here's a Jetsetter video on Facebook about Jetsetter 24.7.