Monday, December 21, 2009

Social Media and Mobile – Fundamentally Changing Travel Forever

Social media and mobile technology are fundamentally changing the way we think about and experience travel, forever.

We used to ask our friends for recommendations, buy a guide book and do a bit of web research.

Now we just hop on a plane and wing it (sorry, bad pun).

We live in an interconnected age: people around the world can engage with bloggers in Iran, protesters in Tibet can MMS videos direct to the media, and, more mundanely, I can tweet pictures of my son building a sandcastle.

We’ve become used to having our friends on tap on Facebook and Skype. Our lives have become reduced to a stream of 140 characters. But that’s OK.

We’re at the forefront of a mega trend on the web - people’s online attention spans are getting shorter. We can access anything we want, anytime, anywhere. Call us the iPhone Generation or the Facebook Generation, whatever you like. We expect instant response, social interaction and relevance.

Perhaps as a result, online travel reviews are getting shorter. But I don’t think this is indicative at all of travellers’ declining interest in learning about foreign countries. On the contrary, I believe we travellers are more curious than ever, more adventurous, more open-minded. It’s just that we are using different media to acquire knowledge in different size chunks to a different schedule.

But with information nirvana comes chaos. How do we sort through it all? By using all this wondrous new webby social technology stuff to ask that age old question – Can you recommend a good bar?

Using social media, I can simply ask my real friends, or my extended social network ‘friends’, in real time.  Or I can do a quick search on a website I trust. In either case, I get an immediate response that is relevant to me.

Perhaps I didn’t need to buy that guidebook after all?

This is really appealing. For me reading a guide book has always been a bit of a let down. The Lonely Planet guys beat me to it – there’s nothing left to discover. I know that’s not true really, but it’s still a feeling I get.

But who do we trust? It used to be the people closest to us. But now, thanks to social media, it can be anyone. Our Twitter followers are asking our travel writers for bar recommendations in Rio…..while they’re walking down the street in Rio! How cool is that? 

So, travel websites need to build immediacy, interaction and relevance into their online experiences. Websites like The Travel Editor and TripBod are doing just this by pooling together groups of experts into a vibrant community full of travel knowledge which travellers can tap into.

Mobile will also play a very important role in our travelling future. I’m very interested to see how the iPhone apps put out by some of the guidebooks will fare. They require people to download the app in advance, and in some cases buy the electronic guidebook to go along with it. Playing devil’s advocate, won’t people prefer to wait until they’ve arrived and then ask people they trust for recommendations?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Travel & Technology Roundup - Week 38, 2009

Hello all,
Apologies for the long time between posts. The market seems to be picking up again and we at have been very busy indeed. This is a good thing.

There have been loads of things going on in tech and travel.

Nokia buys travel social network Dopplr....then weeks later there are rumours they want to sell it. What is going on here? Techcrunch believes Nokia wanted the management team (many of them former Nokians) but not really the business. Any buyers out there? Actually, we may want to give Nokia a call.....

You heard it here first: Time Out launches city guide ebooks. There are 54 titles in Time Out’s City Guide series, with Paris the first guide to be developed as an ebook and London, Venice, Barcelona, New York and Cape Town in the coming weeks. No link unfortunately.

New adventure travel company, Kumutu, appeared on our radar screen. Kumutu aggregate and promote adventure travel destinations and tours. Adventure tour operators can register for free and be added to Kumutu's GDS system. A new company, they've done a good job so far with 400 tour operators already in their system.

Our friends at Spot Cool Stuff have listed 5 Amazing Towns on Perilous Cliff Sides. I won't give the game away, but they're all in Europe except for one. The photos are absolutely stunning. A must read article from this super cool website.

Finally, here's a round up of what's been happening at

New Israel Travel Guide launches today! It's still a work in progress, but we've got some of our best writers on the case to make it even better. Special thanks to Anthea Gerrie for so diligently churning out article after article these past few months.

We've also launched a New York City everyone knows New York, like London, is a tough one to do properly. We've had a go and have enough New York restaurant and hotel reviews for at least a good ol' weekend of shopping, food and booze. Any writers out there who want to contribute please get in touch with us.

But we're especially excited about It's a Wild World, our ecotourism and wildlife travel section. Edited by wildlife journalist, Ron Toft, this section really brings wildlife tourism to the fore and shows us that it's not just for geeky birdwatching enthusiasts, but for all of us. And in this day and age of environmental peril, we think everyone should read these articles to help remind us what is at stake, and maybe awaken the hidden activist in all of us.

Other great features include:
* The Best European Christmas Markets
* Top 10 Christmas Gift Travel Gadgets recommended by The Kitmaster
* Newly redesigned Weekend Breaks section, including weekend breaks in England, Scotland, Paris, France, Eastern and Western Europe.
* Coming soon...a new mini guide to Philadelphia. Stay tuned.

Happy travels.