March 12, 2008

'Tourists saying ‘no’ to user-generated opinions' - Newsweek Reports

There are grumblings in the user generated review world. Newsweek reports that "the expert is back", and Charlotte Beal reports that there is an increase in 'choice fatigue' amongst tourists, and that "the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information". Returning from my Tips From The T-List sponsored blogger workshop at PhoCusWright@ITB, where we focussed on these issues has given me a greater appreciation for the conflict.

I have started to hear an increase in frustration with false reviews and bad information with UGC review sites like TripAdvisor. The issue is that anyone can write a review about a property even if they have not been to the property, this opens up the opportunity for abuse, and when abuse does happen, (which it does) these sites don't remove the offending posts. (Example)

These fraudulent reviews have a ripple effect, they directly effect the slighted property, and if the false reviews are identified, they lower the credibility of the entire user generated review process. This places me in a juxtaposition, I know that independent reviews are going to offer an authentic, unbiased overview; and that expert travel reviews, in most cases, are financed by the property itself, thus completely eliminating the authenticity of the review.

What can we do? All travel companies should embrace every open review platform, get involved in the reviews and see them as a learning opportunity. If you have something to hide, then you shouldn't be in the travel business.

How are we going to ensure the authenticity of the reviews? Can we add receipt verification / proof of purchase? Or how about a verified online ID? Where if you want to write a review, you have to have a verified ID, thus making you accountable for all that you wright. This may open the door to more spam and identity theft, but how do we make people accountable for what they write.

I believe in the democratization of content, and that when people write reviews under false pretenses or write fraudulent reviews it ruins the system for everyone. What will the future look like? I agree that there will always be a place for expert opinion and content, but that we will strengthen the user generated content until it can be authenticated and trustworthy. What do you see as the future?

ReadSpeaker AudioFeed - Podcast of this blog

Here or There - Are we there yet?

The PhoCusWright@ITB Bloggers summit gave bloggers exclusive press time with a number of travel industry executives. Hugo Burge, Vice-Chairman & Head of International at CheapFlights was one of the presenters at the bloggers briefings. He was talking about a new 'experience inspiration' tool that he is working on as a side project, Here or There.

This new site is focused on travel experience sharing as opposed to travel transportation and accommodation selling. This reminds me of the 4 steps that Joe Buhler identified (Dream, Learn, Plan, Go) in my Expert Interview, and it is good to see more focus on the dream stage in travel preparation.

His site monetizes itself with 'targeted' Google ads, and currently does not send any referrals to travel suppliers. Hugo believes that "Pay per click is the new commission." It is hard to argue with his success, but with many sites starting to combine all of the steps in the travel planning process (Isango sort of comes to mind) and with the never ending increase in niche and fragmented communities, it seems like a challenge to force people to utilize even more sites and tools, when there is the potential to facilitate the entire booking process in one site.

If Hugo was to add some top level tabs that isolate the various steps in the booking process, giving each a distinctive look and feel, I am sure that customers would be receptive to take all of their dreaming into the next step towards booking their trip. What do you think?

ReadSpeaker AudioFeed - Podcast of this blog

Second Life - Life for Tourism?

Marketing Travel In Second Life

Daniele Mancini, corporate E-Business Director, Costa Crociere S.p.A. had a great presentation at PhoCusWright. He opened my eyes to the level of large corporate web 2.0 marketing.

Costa is a massive cruise supplier, they have 18 ships and 11 more being built. They are pioneers (for a large company anyways) in utilizing online marketing to connect with their consumers. Their b2c marketing efforts included blogs, Youtube contests, online community interaction, and a Second Life presence including owning property and cruise ships.

This post focuses on their Second Life efforts. Costa utilized this new world in an innovative way, they reproduced a press conference and ship launch within Second Life and paired it with a real world launch, fireworks and all.

Their Second Life developments included:


  • Offer a virtual experience for residents
  • events
  • contests
  • Training for travel agents
  • Lesson for 15 minutes
  • Guided tour of the shop

Kevin May, editor of Travolution had the insight to ask “So ow many people attended the launch?” There was not a quantitative answer, but Daniele claimed that Second Life “offers good value for advertising” when compared to traditional media. Daniele then stated that he has changed his Secondlife marketing efforts from B2C to strictly B2B. This hardly seems like there was a good ROI if they have canceled their B2C campaign all together.

Gregory Turley, CEO of was discussing this online marketing phenomenon with me; we both agreed that the people who invest much time in Secondlife, are probably not likely to be interested in the Travel Industry. I pointed out that most of the people that are integrated in a Second Life may be more interested in technology and have less of an interest in real world experiences, but maybe I am wrong. What do you think? Have you found that Second Life offers a good return on your marketing investment?

ReadSpeaker AudioFeed - Podcast of this blog

February 26, 2008

Germany embraces travel industry communities.

Communities are powering the internet, collaboration is the new norm, and Germany is the new Hotspot for Travel Industry internet communities. They will be hosting 2 grass roots events in a one month time period, Tourismus Camp and the PhoCusWright Bloggers Summit@ITB.

On February 9th, the first TourismusCamp (think Barcamp meets tourism) was hosted in Eichstaett. This meet up was organized by my associate, Jens Oellrich who will also join the me at ITB. Here is a link to the event wiki, translated into English.

I have had the pleasure of coordinating the first international bloggers summit; the PhoCusWright@ITB bloggers summit is bringing a group of over 30 bloggers from more then a 12 different countries together. This event is combining a Tips From The T-List workshop that is open to the public, exclusive blogger interviews with travel industry executives, access to the great PhoCusWright conference information and some good times.

We have brought the bloggers together into one place for everyone to stay up to date on the latest blogger content, go to for photos, videos and the latest blog posts from an international group of bloggers on this amazing event!

ReadSpeaker AudioFeed - Podcast of this blog

February 8, 2008

Were do GDS' fit in? - The strength of the Middle Man

What does a GDS do?
Well to sum up a bloated technological legacy system, they connect travel suppliers with those that want to buy the travel products; an electronic travel product catalog or marketplace if you will. The primary users of GDS' are travel/internal agents (through a CRS) and consumers (through an Internet portal/OTA).

Why are they needed?
GDS' work well with the traditional distribution system thinking, clients or customers can go to one centralized location to find their travel requirements. This relationship is controlled by the GDS and the reservation is processed through their distribution system. This simplifies the booking process for most of the stakeholders.

What are the challenges?
onsumers, resellers and suppliers are charged a premium for using this 'travel catalog'; a premium that is not cheap. As online technology becomes more accessible, suppliers are opting to offer online sales capabilities through their own websites, thus cutting off the GDS completely.

What does the future look like?
Travel Suppliers are finding that they are able to cut out the GDS and Travel agent, offer similar sales functionality to their customers, and increase thier bottom line. That is a danger for the GDS.

One area that holds promise for the GDS' is the amalgmation of online communities with a travel retail component. As online sites develop into niche communities, travel products will find a natural integration. Sabre has recently launched a business travel social network named 'Cubeless' (sounds like a way to order a drink..) that looks to unite business travelers as they globe trot for their company. My friend Norm Rose was interviewed for BTN Online about social networking for business travelers:

"Most corporate travel managers think about broadcasting out," he said. "The idea of getting feedback and having the visibility to that is not yet on the radar of many travel managers, but can serve a valuable purpose of cultivating the natural tendencies of travelers wanting to talk to each other."
Cubless will be launched with American Express travel. I am curious to see if business travelers are the most effective market for this social community as they may already have a number of other programs, meetings and platforms they deal with. What do you think, are GDS' evolving fast enough? What do you see as the next steps?
ReadSpeaker AudioFeed - Podcast of this blog