From the slopes of Mount Kiliminjaro in Kenya to the land of the snow leopard in Mongolia and Central Asia, Rob Holmes has travelled the world in pursuit of adventure, recreation, learning, inspiration, new business development, and even protection of an endangered species. Yet, no matter how far or how high his treks have taken him, the trail has always led back to Seattle.
That seems only fitting. Rob is Director of Marketing for Trails.com, a company that has been finding all the right inroads to successfully navigate the Internet business maze. “Trails” is among the very few E-commerce companies to earn a profit by providing specialized content via the Web. Its content exchange is made in the form of detailed maps and narrated trail guides available for a per-usage fee or over a designated time-period. The company’s subscription service, which launched this year under the eTrail Pass brand name, provides online access to more than 30,000 trail descriptions. Trails.com also generates revenues through sponsorship agreements with companies such as Patagonia, Yakima and Teva.
Since teaming with company co-founders Doug Colbek and Bryce Stevens, Holmes has helped Trails plot an ambitious course that today finds the company readying a new line of gift cards for retail stores. Ideal for holiday shoppers, the cards are the perfect stocking stuffers for someone who could use access to the Web site before embarking along an outdoor trail or sight-seeing on a metropolitan travel excursion. The gift cards will be available for purchase on the Trails.com Web site as well as through select retailers.
Hot on the trail of success, Trails.com has also recently found its way into new office digs, situated in the Pike Place Market Hill Climb. Finding the new “base camp” is a cinch. Trails actually sells self-guided walking tours through urban environments like Seattle, including one for getting around Pike Place Market. The trail description for the market tour actually takes you right past the Trails.com front door.
While company CEO Doug Colbeck’s background was in mountain biking and led to the creation of a popular community Website in the mid 90’s known as Fattire.com (the predecesor to Trails.com which launched in March of 2000), Holme’s interests run to kayaking, hiking, camping and, of course, travel.
“I’ve been to over 30 countries,” he explains. “Before moving to Seattle (from New England), I traveled for five months throughout Central America. While getting my MBA at the University of Washington Business School, I also spent a semester studying in India and helped lead international study tours over in South Africa and Brazil. International travel has always been an important component of my life. In addition, I have done over 25 adventure travel slideshows on these travels. My current slide show on Mongolia & China has been featured at several travel-focused retailers in Seattle (e.g. REI, The North Face, Wide World of Books & Maps).”
Holmes went on a special mission for the local Seattle non-profit called the International Snow Leopard Trust. The trail in this case led Rob to Mongolia. “I was helping to write a business plan that would set up an enterprise in Mongolia to help save the snow leopard from extinction.” Rob recently completed a term on the board of the Woodland Park Zoo. He has continued his involvement with their current 10-year business plan.
In his free time, Holmes has participated in different
kayak races including ski-to-sea races which
are team based relays.
Trails.com uses Adobe’s Acrobat eBook Reader, (downloadable for free) to enable users to view and print selected chapters (or eTrails) directly from over 600 published guidebooks. Instead of the average book price of $15 to $20, users can download individual eTrails for only $3.95. However, subscribers can purchase three different passes: “Day Pass” ($4.95; one eTrail download), “Month Pass” ($9.95; three eTrail downloads) or “Annual Pass” ($29.95; ten eTrail downloads). All subscribers also get access to interactive topo maps, real-time weather, trail reviews and more with their subscription. While many new subscribers test the waters with a day pass, 75 percent chose the highest-priced annual pass.
Moreover, an eTrail Pass, once paid for, belongs to the user. It’s downloaded to your hard drive, where you can file it and print it out over and over for an entire year. This is a significant advantage over Web “rental” programs that force users to renew subscriptions to reuse content they already have paid for.
Trails.com has 130,000 registered users and averages 200,000 visitor sessions a month. [24×7]
Summiting at Mount Rainier, Rob stops to do a little outdoor advertising.