I had a really interesting chat across the office with a couple of colleagues this afternoon. Both were bemoaning the fact that they are trying to get organised and book summer holidays for next year after leaving it to the last minute this year and not having very good experiences.
Neither of them had the first idea where to go to online to find inspiration.
As the resident travel 'expert' (their words not mine!) I was duly consulted about the ideal place for a really sunny beach holiday in Europe in mid-summer that would work well for kids and wouldn't be too resort-like and would be pretty cheap.
Simonseeks, vtravelled, travelmuse, thetraveleditor, tripbase, tripwolf - there are a good number of contenders for the content crown for travel holiday research, but the guys in my team (who work for a web and social media company!) hadn't heard of any of them. And frankly they wouldn't trust them if they did. And having tinkered with all of them I wouldn't either.
How about Trip Advisor? "No way... can't trust the reviews on there" I was told. One of my colleagues uses The Guardian's travel pages - he reads the Guardian on a regular basis and feels he can trust it. The other uses Flickr at the moment as her best research tool for holiday destinations. "At least that way you get a real idea of what a place looks like" she said.
I'm sure that the problem right now is that what sites there are out there online that are trying to provide inspiration for the research phase of booking a holiday are still way too general and way too new to be much use to anyone. Just to see I tried Travelmuse's inspiration tool. It suggested Lisbon, Nice and Naples as beach holidays for a family. Pretty hopeless.
I'm doing some more detailed reviewing of research and inspiration tools which I'll share on another post soon.
In the meantime, the thing that we kept coming back to is Amazon's tool that tells you 'people who bought this book also liked....' There's some interesting discussion about the problems of creating a tool like this for travel on Stephen Joyce's excellent T4 blog. As he points out... it's just not that straight forward with an infrequent and complex purchase like travel:
'People who booked the Fairmont Vancouver also booked... 'another hotel in Vancouver' - What do I need another hotel for!?
'People who booked a flight to Amsterdam also booked... a flight to Berlin' -
Yes, but I'm going to Amsterdam, so what's the use of that?
He has his own technical suggestions which you can read about on his post, but for me it's all about people like me.
Both the Travel Editor and vtravelled attempt to profile users to match them to other users or specific content, but for now neither has enough content or users to really make this work.
Now... if Trip Advisor could tell me not just which hotel was the most popular in a place, but which hotel was most popular amongst married, adventurous travellers with no kids yet who don't mind spending a bit for something genuinely different... (ie people like me!) THAT would be useful. Interestingly for Trip Advisor it's probably too late now... I doubt the demographic information the site holds for its many millions of reviewers is anymore detailed than what sex they are.
Where would you suggest for my colleague who wants a good value beach break that's hot and sunny in summer, couple of hours flying time, Ok for kids but not a huge beach resort? (I suggested Mallorca.)