Several years ago, travel communities were a huge promise. Many websites tried to give travelers what they want – a place to share their experiences, find new travel mates, upload their photos, and a place to ask questions and get information about their planned trips. Examples for travel communities include WAYN, TripUp, TravBuddy and RealTravel.
But then came the social networks… and Facebook was the first one to actually change the way people communicate with their friends during their trip – your friends are already in Facebook, so it makes sense to upload your photos and stories to the same website. With the many travel applications written for the platform (the last count is 545), you can also share your past trips and boast in the number of countries you visited.
Now we need to ask the question – is there a room for a dedicated social-network for travelers? Some people think that the answer is no. When Kayak bought Sidestep (who acquired TripUp a while back), they decided to close down TripUp – one of the first travel-social-network sites. Now when you try to go into TripUp.com, you’ll find the following message:
Tripup is gone, sorry. Maybe you can use Facebook instead, it’s very popular.
But we need to stop and consider what a traveler’s needs really are, before we dismiss the travel communities. The first distinction to make is between a community and a social-network. A Social-Network allows you to share and stay in touch with your friends. But during a trip you usually want to meet new people – both locals and fellow travelers. You want to get travel information, the latest updates and best places to visit – you want to enjoy the whole local travel community, not just people you have already met. These things are hard to do in a social network – and certainly your regular home friends are not the ones you want to ask or meet during your trip.
Another thing to bare in mind is that travelers during their trip use the internet in a different way. Usually they use Internet-Cafes, or they bring their own laptop – but in any case most people wish to minimize their online time – they want to travel, not surf the net. If the web site is focused and can save time it might be useful for people on the go.
In short, in order for a travel community site to be successful, it needs to either focus on a niche part of the market, or provide services that are not suitable for the large social networks – travel information, companion search, local activities, things-to-do, etc. All this must be done in such a way that is appealing for people during their trip.
Written by Ron Mertens from TripTouch LTD. TripTouch is a travel home page – bringing you travel information, services and a community – everything a traveler needs during her trip.