There are stacks of travel websites out there trying to be all things to all holidaymakers. None in my opinion do a very good job. Let's face it, it's difficult indeed to cover all the different sections of the market - families, honeymooners, backpackers, singles, adventure seekers, beach bums. I pity the poor punter trying to research their holiday on-line at the moment.

What surprises me is that we're not seeing more decent niche travel sites popping up. I think it's illustrative of how travel content on-line is still in its infancy. Few people are really investing in it and really thinking about who their audience might be. At the moment it's just about chucking a load of content up on a site - usually of very mediocre quality - and hoping enough traffic is generated to garner some ad revenue. Or alternatively setting up a big booking engine that pulls in product from all over the place (a la Expedia or Travelocity) and sticking a few bits of content around it just to make the site look nice.

Surely if you get the content right for a specific audience, you should be quite successful at selling product and gaining ad revenue?

I did find one example of a new site trying to mine customer niches recently. I got sent a press release about a new site called Holiday Goddess which is authored by '30 of the world's leading female writers'... 'Female friendly travel' is the strap line so it's presumably aimed at savvy lassies who know what they like and don't mind spending a little to have it.

But how depressing the site is. It's badly designed and looks awful. Clearly an attempt by people who know a thing or two about print but very little at all about the web and are working on a shoestring budget. Shame, they have the germ of a great idea.

I tried a Google search for 'Family Travel' - the first obvious customer niche that came to mind. The only UK website I found was called Family Travel. Again it promised something, but didn't really deliver. It's edited by Kate Calvert and Charlotte Hindle who both know their stuff when it comes to writing about travel for families, but the site looks old and very basic. On further investigation I realised that most of the proper content is only available to subscribers. So maybe it's working for them... somehow I doubt it though. The site looks so Web 1.0 it must turn potential customers off long before they subscribe.

The only example I could think of that for me comes close is Responsible Travel. This is certainly an example of a site that really taps a niche and does it very successfully. There's UGC here with forums and reviews, but again very little professional content to provide additional depth and insight. I wonder if they will ever see it worth the investment to add some?

I think there's real opportunity out there for someone to set up a site that really delivers useful information - with great holidays attached - fora specific customer niche.

Anyone found any genuinely great examples of niche travel sites?

21 thoughts on “One-sized travel sites… don’t fit all

  1. Hi Jeremy, this might not be what you're looking for (a bit of self-publicity), but what do you think of Globalista (www.globalista.co.uk)? The site has been created specifically for the niche of time-poor, discerning travellers, who want well-curated and reliable content for destinations around the world. It is a tricky demographic to pitch at in this cash-strapped environment, but we are confident that our subscription and pay-per-view model makes sense for this niche.

  2. http://www.travelguru.tv is aimed squarely at the more 'mature' discerning traveller. We decided not to be age specific a la Saga model but hopefully its evident by the product selection, choice of 'gurus' and general tone that this is not a one size fits all site. Longer term we plan to develop into other niche areas eg family, adventure, ski, cruise etc bringing in new gurus as appropriate.

  3. Great example of niche travel sites? Look no further than sex tourism -- not that I'm an avid researcher/tourer in this field, but you're the one asking for a niche and they have that one down.

    Sex-tour sites cater to a very, very specific market and the information presented -- be it "joiner-friendly" hotels, specific tour operators or destinations and activities, ahh, suited to their needs -- is far more targeted than what you'll see on the more general run-of-the-mill travel sites mentioned above.

    At Travelfish.org, we picked a niche (backpacker/flashpacker) and a region (SE Asia) and are pretty happy with where we're at -- and narry a sex tourist in sight!

  4. Medical Tourism is another travel niche that has quite a few tailored travel sites, my site at DiscoverMedicalTourism.com targets this market.

    In the general travel sites there are several sites targeting either end of the budget spectrum (backpackers or luxury) but for other classifications like women, family, children there does seem to be a dearth.

    I think part of the problem is there are few high-quality and professionally written travel sites out there. Besides generic travel-blogs there are not that many good guidebook / information sites. Stuart at TravelFish is one of the few really high quality and well-rounded travel-guide type sites that employs professional writers and researchers.

  5. Totally agree about HolidayGoddess, it promises much but doesn't deliver at all. Amazed they went to the trouble of issuing a press release for such a dog's dinner of a site.

    That said, it could all be easily resolved by the skillful use of WordPress. It would enable better categorisation, interaction, easy collaborative authoring, automatic and viral communication via other systems such as Twitter and Facebook and an overall fresher and more dynamic look and feel.

    There's tons of great magazine style WP themes out there, the difficult part is picking the right one but once you have it's a doddle ;-)

    Earlier this year we launched a very simple niche travel site using the WordPress platform, albeit with a customised theme and some custom programming, and it wasn't difficult at all. Here it is: http://goglamping.net

    We're at version 1 of the site, there's more planned as we go along, but I'd like to feel it's a niche travel site doing something right. It's not complicated, it's not convoluted. It's nice and simple, just like HolidayPad ;-)

  6. Oops, I've just realised that HolidayGoddess uses WordPress after all but really BADLY! No SEO at all, no pretty permalinks, awful structure and the content is poorly organised.

  7. Thanks for the comments guys!
    Interesting isn't it that it's the slightly more 'out there' ideas that have the strongest niches. Porn drives innovation on the net (unfortunately)!
    @ Garri- WordPress is the future. Any self respecting travel web-publisher should invest time in getting the hang of it. It's awesomely clever. (I know, I know! This site is still on Typepad which is very ironic... but I will migrate it sometime... if I ever get time!)I'm tinkering with something myself, which is what prompted this post. If you want to see a great example of taking WordPress to the max have a look at the multi-author blog we write at iCrossing for More Than (not a travel site unfortunately) http://living.morethan.com
    One other interesting example I found of niches is http://www.spottedbylocals.com/. Not so much mining a particular niche, but providing very specific information for very targeted needs. I wonder if it makes any money as there are hardly any ads on there?
    @ Cathy. I wonder if because travelguru is so video-focussed people don't appreciate the audience it's aimed at so much? Does the technology/delivery channel mean people don't 'get' the content because they aren't in the mood or don't have time to watch a video? Do you have plans to add static words and pics to go alongside the video?

  8. Jeremy, WordPress is by no means perfect as a cms, and can be a steep learning curve, but when done right the reward is great. I personally favour Expression Engine but the price of finding suitable talent is higher than WP.

    My own site, Holiday Pad, will be migrated over to WP in the coming months with a better structure and a sexy new look ;-)

    Spottedbylocals.com is one of my fave travel sites, brilliant execution. It recently got a wonderful write up in The Guardian as result of being found via Twitter: http://twitter.com/benjilanyado/status/1347996735

    But why are people in the travel 'biz' fixated by whether sites like this are 'making any money' or not. It's really none of our business ;-)

    For some sites, it's not always about that, at least not to begin with anyway.

  9. @ Garri. re the 'making money' thing. It might not be about that for some sites, but for me personally - as a professional travel writer - it most certainly is. I'm always asking myself if someone is making money and if not, why not! Particularly in the light of falling fees for tradition off-line travel writing.

  10. Also a spottedbylocals fan and also hoping to pimp my own site Joobili We were just voted as a winner of Seedcamp Warsaw http://uk.techcrunch.com/2009/03/19/seedcap-warsaw-seks-out-the-eastern-startups/

    We focus on the niche of time-sensitive travel experiences...things like festivals, events, or even migrating butterflies. As long as it is a cool travel experience that is timely and travel-worthy. We just launched, have a lot of work still ahead, but we think we're off to a good start. Let us know what you think.

  11. 'I think it's illustrative of how travel content on-line is still in its infancy.' I'd agree with this and it applies to the internet in general. Very early days with many opportunities. The flip side of this is that many niche sites trying to address the probelm you outline are also in their infancy. I trust all the sites referred to here evolve and improve over time.

  12. Hi Jeremy,
    Two sites that I've come across via Twitter are http://www.holidaypad.net and its sister site http://goglamping.net/. I'm not sure of their business model, but holidaypad lists unique accommodation such as yurts, treehouses, luxury VW campervans etc... and goglamping is 'the leading luxury camping directory'. Both are definitely worth you taking a look at I think.

  13. I think you're right that niche travel websites are still in their infancy phase, but they are coming. As a lesbian journalist who travels frequently, I was always troubled by the lack of lesbian travel information available online... which is why I launched Girlports just over a year ago. Girlports highlights travel information of interest to lesbian and bisexual women for cities around the world. Amazingly enough, it's the only lesbian travel information website that exists right now. As I continue to travel, more info goes on the site.


  14. Some interesing stuff here... thanks for the comments!
    @ Tanya - yep. I was thinking gay/lesbian was a really obvious niche that someone ought to be doing! :-)
    @ Lucy and Margaret. I was thinking more about sites that target particular sorts of customer rather than sites that are specific to a particular destination. BUT I am sure both have their place. What's cool about web is you can set up for far less and thus target smaller pockets of business more cost-effectively. I think the web is MADE for this kind of thing. If you can set yourself up as THE place to come to for the most update and insightful info about a particular place, why would anyone go anywhere else?

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