New sites are cropping up all the time and old ones are redefining themselves. Here are some trends suggesting where online travel is headed:
“The ecosystem has changed for travel,” says Chris Brown, vice president for products at orbitz.com. Similar to the massive shift that occurred when consumers first went online more than a decade ago, consumers are migrating from desktops to mobile smartphones and tablet devices, he says. Most travel sites have apps; those that don’t are working on them.
“Mobile devices have changed consumer behavior, with many people booking cars and hotel rooms on the same day as their travel,” adds Brown. Hoteltonight.com is an app-only player in the growing business of last-minute travel.
Sites are springing up to enable travelers to share recommendations with friends, and friends of friends. “We were socially engineered from the get-go,” says J.R. Johnson, founder and CEO of trippy.com. “This builds trust and helps ensure relevance as compared to anonymous reviews.” Gogobot.com sorts hotels, restaurants, and things to do based on recommendations by others in your social network. (A mobile app was launched in October 2011.) The site and app are based on the premise that someone you know has probably been to most of the places you want to go. Using a Facebook sign-on takes anonymity out of reviews because it allows users to verify the identities of reviewers.
Curated sites, where travel experts create portfolios of high-end luxury properties, have also seen a spike. Jetsetter.com, is one of the most popular in this genre. Others include trufflepig.com, bombasticlife.com, welcomebeyond.com, zicasso.com, and theexplorateur.com (theexplorateurportfolio.com).
Cutting out the middleman
The Internet has created an expanded market, too, for more adventurous travelers to rent out or swap rooms, apartments, homes, chalets, cottages, or castles directly to other travelers peer-to-peer, eliminating middleman costs. Vacation Rentals by Owner (vrbo.com), Owner’s Direct (http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk), homeexchange.com, and airbnb.com are just a few of these sites.
On the heels of the success of Pinterest (a social networking site that allows users to share images and videos), travel sites are using more imagery to inspire travel and help make decisions. Both trippy.com and gogobot.com encourage travelers to post photos. Themostperfectview.com is a global collection of hotels with spectacular views. Insiderperks.com showcases its properties using videos.
For more tips on planning online travel, see my article: How to plan your next trip online
[This article was published in the Boston Globe Travel Section on Sunday, June 10, 2012.]
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