While writing Travel Gumbo’s Travel News, we came across one of the most interesting stories this year, Orion Travel Tech’s plan to put advertising on luggage, and getting travelers to display the ads as they travel, and be paid by having their baggage fees paid by Orion.
Gary German, founder and CEO of Orion Travel Tech, is a former Continental Airlines flight attendant, ad executive, promotion director and a mobile-tech person. He says he started Orion because he was paying $300 in baggage fees for his family to travel, and he knew some families weren’t traveling because of the high fees.
So he thought of a way to put advertising on luggage to pay for people’s checked bags. Just as advertisers pay to wrap ads on buses and cars, they would pay for the advertising space on luggage, and from the fees, Orion would pay the users’ baggage fees. But since luggage, it had to be more durable, so Orion is molding the ads into the luggage.
Gary German is one of the most ambitious people I've heard about in the travel industry. Think of Richard Branson, no joke. And like Branson, Gary has an array of other plans, ranging from smart luggage to airport lounges…maybe even an airline! Can he pull off all these plans? I don't know, but even half would make Orion Travel Tech one of the most talked about travel companies in the years to come.
TG: Your plan is for travelers to display ads on their luggage. Can you explain what’s in it for them, and whether there are any costs for the travelers? If so, what are they?
Gary German: No cost to them at all-they receive a $50 baggage fee gift card that can be redeemed on the airline web site or at the ticket counter.
Once those fees are used and if you want to travel again, you just email us and we will reload your card. You can use the card on as many trips as you wish during one physical year. Those fees are used with a UPC code that actually records your trips; if you are not on a plane with a ticket code the card cannot be used.
TG: And the travelers will get free luggage with advertising on it to earn the card?
Gary German: We also give each person that signs up a free life time membership. After one year there will be a $20 fee charged for each year of membership. That membership fee will save the traveler on average $5000 each year. There will be all kinds of great programs that are free and lots of free things as well and lots of discounts with most of our individual programs.
Also, we give away a $500 set of luggage that has a two year warranty on it. Each set is made of high end plastic molds and will not have a wrap on the luggage but the image is set into the mold for life. Each luggage piece has a four wheel trolley system for ease of use.
TG: What do you think advertisers will get from this program, in terms of exposure, that they couldn’t get from, say, T-shirts?
Gary German: Uniquely enough, each person who travels with our luggage becomes an instant salesperson. On average in a busy airport like Atlanta, you may have up to 50 people approach you from ticketing to the gate, that actually strike up a conversation. The traveler becomes a loyal customer right off the bat based on the free-ness of it all! If a family of five is walking through the airport at the same time, it is really a sight to behold, it looks like a 14 foot wide billboard going through the airport.
This does not include impressions like a normal billboard, this is like a normal billboard with a naked person on it. It really drives the eyes to it. You as the luggage holder literally can travel many miles in one day including through an airport, not just on a plane.
Also when the luggage arrives at the customer’s door the smaller 21-inch bag also is filled with lots of free stuff that the world has not seen yet, this also turns that customer experience into a Christmas Day like atmosphere.
TG: Since passengers will arrive and check their bags, they’ll be most visible later on the carousel; will people be paying attention then?
Gary German: I don't believe there is anything quite like this in the advertising space at the moment. People are not fast forwarding, they’re not getting irked at videos before they can preview something, they not getting peeved at listening to any radio ads, they’re not missing any magazine ads: They are actually trying to find out how they can get the luggage.
TG: How do the details work? For instance, how and when can travelers get the luggage? Will the debit card work for all countries and airlines? And will you be extending this to buses and cruises?
Gary German: We are currently in 12 countries outside the USA; by mid-year 2016 we plan to be in 45 countries. So at the time, it only works in 13 countries. When they pick a program, they also choose the graphic that they like, then it goes to manufacturing for 32 days, then on a ship for another 23 days then it arrives at Long Beach then to a fulfillment house and then to their door in 7 - 10 business days.
The debit card also arrives at the door with their luggage it only works in the USA at the moment but we are working on a worldwide Orion Visa/Master debit card that is loaded and used anywhere it is accepted. We are also working on our own worldwide mobile wallet. Your cell phone or mobile device will be able to work the same way as the pre-loaded card.
TG: From your years as a flight attendant, you have gained a lot of knowledge about travel. Do you have some tips for us and or places you love to travel?
Gary German: I have tons. But the biggest one I can give is this. I call it the baby carriage effect. Take both bags and go straight to the TSA line. Take both bags through. Then go to the gate and gate-check the large bag. It will go up front with the baby carriages and be placed on the plane. You will never lose your luggage again, ever..It will be waiting for you when you deplane ahead of the baby carriages.
TG: You have a very ambitious 2016 planned. Can you share some of those plans and where do you see your company in 5 years?
Gary German: We will have between 10-15 major ad programs in 2016 some of them going on at the same time. There will be 3 million bags out there in 2016 going to the summer Olympics in Rio, traveling along the presidential campaign trail and some on spring break. That's where we want the Orion Mobile Billboard to be.
We also will be promoting our Globe Trotters Travel Portal. It will be a ‘facebook for travelers.’ We also have an Uber like program called the Orion Travel Buddy program, where you tip the buddy for his expertise and friendship.
We also plan to have our own ‘smart luggage’ with built in scale, GPS tracking, charging station with a fold out shelf for your device, personalized luggage sets under $100 and more.. It will be for under $100. We also will have our own personalized luggage two piece set for under $100.00.
In three years we want to be the go-to company in the world to plan your travel trip with a one stop shop for all your travel needs. In 2016 we will have launched over 10 different programs that will compete will the big guys in travel, but we will have everything under one roof, with millions of our own members that will depend on us to have a great experience.
We’re even planning our own airport lounge, complete with a children's play area, cocktail lounges, restaurants and a mini theater with 300 mbs WIFI. All at a price of $0; anyone can come in. It will be sponsorship driven like our mobile luggage billboard.
Who knows, we may have our own TSA line that you will not have to wait through someday soon! With Orion, anything is possible…maybe our own airline in 2020.
As you can see from Orion's website illustration below...they're thinking VERY big!