Travel is a fiercely competitive industry and this couldn’t be more evident than when searching for travel online. The web has become inundated with travel related services and aggregators all vying for our attention and competing for traffic and top rankings in both organic and paid search for highly competitive key terms.
For the saturated travel industry, it has become increasingly important to look beyond traditional online marketing efforts in order to stand out from the masses and reach us, the increasingly sophisticated and web-savvy consumers. It is now essential that travel companies embrace new technologies if they’re serious about developing a strong brand, engaging with consumers and growing business online.
Travel2.0 is the Travel Industry’s collective acknowledgment of Web2.0 and embodies how travel companies are using emergent trends online to differentiate themselves in such a vast, competitive and dynamic space.
So what is Travel2.0 exactly? It’s all about empowering us, the users, and encouraging us to participate, create and share travel content with other users on the web. It’s about building communities and enabling a rich, interactive, user-friendly online experience.
We are no longer just looking for the lowest airfare prices or destination information. Instead we’re more interested in finding the opinions and reviews of our fellow travelers over professional travel advice. We want control to create our perfect trip, interact with other travelers and share our own experiences and stories. In response, the travel industry has seen a proliferation of Travel2.0 sites which encourage users to contribute and share opinions, reviews, travelogues, itineraries, photos and videos about places they’ve been to all over the world.
In using and reviewing a number of Travel2.0 sites, the following are among my favourites in terms of offering original, creative and compelling content. Their use of wiki’s, mashups, tagging, blogging and networking provide an experience far out-shining the earlier, stale, booking-oriented travel sites:
TripAdvisor is the original Travel2.0 site with over five million hotel, destination and attraction reviews written by travelers for travelers. This site is great because you can share videos and photos, ‘rant and rave’ about anything you want, or plan and book your next trip with trusted advice and great deals. The site includes a wikis section – material written by a user that can be corrected, altered, or added to by others. TripAdivsor has also recently added a social networking component, basically a mini-Facebook for travelers, enabling you to invite friends to join your network, offer advice on future trips and pinpoint places you’ve visited on Google-powered maps.
Gusto is a travel social networking site which basically combines elements of Facebook/Myspace and del.icio.us. Along with the usual stuff like travel guides, travel deals, maps and a blog, members can bookmark their favourite travel places with a feature called the ‘Grabber’ which allows you to gather, store and share information from any page on the web and save it back to your ‘MyGusto’ profile page.
Rrove is a social bookmarking site for places with a pin map creation tool that mashes up with Google or Yahoo Maps. With Rrove, you can share new places by bookmarking and tagging any destination on the planet, write reviews and create and embed maps on your own blogs, web pages or MySpace profiles.
Flagr is a similar travel bookmarking tool where you’re able to ‘flag’ popular destinations around the world on Google Maps, then add tags, addresses, descriptions, photos and even embed videos for other users to see. You can, for example, create a map to a certain theme such as top ski resorts in North America or favourite New York cafes. You can create private or public maps, ‘flag’ online or from your mobile phone and then send picture or text messages to your friends.
Simpatigo is an attraction mapping site which generates a personalised trip itinerary that includes driving directions as well as short descriptions on attractions that you will pass enroute. Their catch phrase sums it up nicely: ‘We don’t tell you where to go – we just tell you how to get there and what you’ll see along the way’. Great for planning road trips in foreign countries.
Flight Club goes a step further. It’s an air travel social networking community where you can search for the perfect seat mate on your next flight, a travel companion on an upcoming trip, or for those with a painfully lengthy airport transit wait, you can even make a friend who is waiting at any airport at the same time.
This is just a small sampling of the growing number of Travel2.0 sites now available online. New Travel2.0 sites are emerging weekly and offer new and improved forms of interactive content. Travel companies embracing Travel2.0 are engaging with us, joining our conversations, building communities, and leaving those that aren’t missing an important opportunity to reach potential customers in new and exciting ways.