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?

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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?

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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?

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