Social Networking in Travel – KLM Airlines

March 30, 2007

We all know Web 2.0 (or Travel 2.0) are the current buzz words. We also know that Social Networking sites in travel are the trend of the present. I have written about a few of them over the

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(VibeAgent, PairUp, Airtroductions), but we haven’t really seen much from travel suppliers in the hotel, airline, or tourism industry, have we?

Well, I was quite surprised that of all possible travel verticals, the airline industry would be the first (at least to my knowledge) to launch social networking sites. KLM has just recently launched customer-centric online communities that connects business

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people doing business in China and Africa. KLM is also planning to launch communities for India and Russia,

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as well as lifestyles – and has recently launched Golf as the first sport-themed social networking community. Why emerging markets? Well, entrepreneurs that are looking to connect with like-minded business people to get tips and tricks on how to engage and interact in those countries have been signing up and log-in at least once a month on average. In addition to making contacts, KLM also organizes offline club events for members and provides benefits such as free airport transfers.

However, when an airline can do it, what about hotels or destinations. I would think that Club-themed resorts such as Club Med, Sandals, etc. could build communities, as well as Vacation Ownership and Private Residence Clubs. Interesting…my question: is this the new wave of innovative CRM strategies, and can it be a shift from expensive loyalty points programs? Is there a way to increase loyalty and increase revenues by building social networking sites in travel, or is it just a fad? In any event, I thought KLM’s efforts were an innovative way of leveraging technology and the Internet by capturing a need in the market.

New Hotel Website Startup – VibeAgent.com

March 28, 2007

I was approached by Adam Healey, the co-founder of VibeAgent.com to be one of the beta testers for his new start-up. VibeAgent is supposed to be a combination of TripAdvisor + Kayak + eHarmony on top of a mini-Facebook. So of course I got a little interested, and asked to do a quick interview with Adam to find out more, since there are already so many hotel websites on the market. I was interested how his new venture is different and how he intends to get the consumers attention. The site is not live yet, but Adam send me a few screenshots that will give “Tourism Internet Marketing Blog” readers a sneak preview. Below you can read what he had to say.

INTERVIEW WITH VIBE AGENT

TIM (Tourism Internet Marketing): WHAT IS VIBEAGENT, AND WHEN ARE YOU GOING LIVE?

In a nutshell, VibeAgent is a combination between Tripadvisor, Kayak, and eHarmony on top of a mini Facebook. VibeAgent is a Travel 2.0 site, focused on providing people with personalized hotel recommendation they can trust, at prices they can’t beat. We are an international site, which at launch in April or May will have 90,000 hotels in its database – more than Expedia.

TIM: WHAT IS YOUR VALUE PROPOSTION TO CONSUMERS AND HOTELIERS?

We provide our users with personalized hotel recommendations written by people who

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share similar tastes and preferences. We’ve created a simple experiential search tool to help users describe their ideal hotel experience, and a neat little social search algorithm that prioritizes and matches the reviews of community members with similar preferences and whose reviews have been deemed trustworthy.

Once the user has found the perfect hotel, VibeAgent finds the best available rate by comparing quotes from many different transaction partners, both hotels and other travel e-commerce sites.

We also provide users with a simple user interface and a personalized social networking platform so they can invite their friends and colleagues to share reviews and recommendations. Users can even create and join groups of similar-minded people to share experiences and receive good advice, or read reviews written by experts on the target destination.
Read more

The Value of DMOs?

March 22, 2007

DMOs

Sometimes it seems to be hard to understand from private tourism business or even from government, as well as from residents to pinpoint the true value of Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs).
DMOs have gotten under attack recently, and two examples illustrate the case – one more tongue and cheek, the other a bit more real-life.

Read more

Online Tourism Marketing in the US

March 20, 2007

What is going on south of the border as it relates to e-tourism marketing (since I am currently in Canada)? As Canada’s biggest tourism market is the US (and vice versa), I have been looking south to see how some of the US States are promoting themselves online. I am planning to do the same for the Canadian provinces shortly as a follow-up to this post.

Note: there are

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quite a few cities that do really innovative work, but I will not be able to focus on city DMOs in this posting.

Maybe a quick around national tourism marketing in the USA and Canada. While the Canadian Tourism Commission has been marketing Canada as one nation in collaboration with the different Provincial Tourism Organizations (Tourism British Columbia,

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Travel Alberta, Bonjour Quebec, etc.), the US has been more fragmented and the State Tourism Organizations (Go Hawaii, Tourism Massacusettts, Visit Pennsylvania, etc.) have taken the lead in marketing the USA. With refreshed leadership at TIA (Travel Industry Association of America), the US Government has approved a grant to build a national tourism website, DiscoverAmerica.com (currently SeeAmerica.org).

Here are ten nice US State Tourism website examples that I found interesting:

1. At VisitPA.com, Pennsylvania Playlists will let everybody—experts, celebrities, and regular folks—create pages that list their favorite places to play and stay in PA that link to details pages on visitPA.com. It’s a new way to highlight the best the Commonwealth has to offer while generating excitement for tourism and sparking publicity.

2. Oregon, one of my favorite state-run sites, tourists planning a visit to Oregon can build a personal travel journal based on places and events they want to enjoy in each of seven zones of the state. The site can then generate an itinerary linking all of them. This is just a great site all around!

5. Virginia launched the “Crooked Road – Virginia’s Hertitage and Music Trail“, where you can create your own song. A nice way to create buzz and stimulate viral marketing. Probably the first Tourism Organization that has been using the web in that way.

6. Utah has build a nice flash site (and has adopted the use of dot travel in their online and offline advertising). Their top spots site focuses on some of the wow experiences in Utah.

7. Texas designed a nice site (and I had to pick Texas as my 7th choice as I went to High School in Fort Worth, TX as a German exchange student 10 years ago). But the site is very user-friendly, especially the map and the TripMaker. I liked the fact that music is showcased, but was then disappointed that you cannot sample it. (no booking engine)

8. Tourism Massachusetts, rolled out the first of a planned 50 two-minute videos promoting venues like Cape Cod and the Berkshires. The technology, at website USAMass.tv, lets officials put television-quality video in front of millions of potential tourists at one-tenth the cost of European television infomercials. A bubbly British host adds an international feel.

9. Washington State created a very image rich site (possibly a little content poor), however very experiential.

10. Colorado also made it onto my list. A clean and easy to navigate site. (no booking engine)

Also, have a look at the blog post at the Smiley Cat blog, which took a look at the US States web representation online.

3. Hawaii began offering a travel guide last fall with 300 photos taken by native Hawaiians, selected from more than 8,000 submissions. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau believes that visitors appreciate knowing what residents like to experience. (I agree)

4. California has a very user-friendly site that captures the essence of the state and makes it easy to plan and book your travel needs. I would especially point the nice integration of mapping. (booking engine)

Online Matchmaking for Plane Travelers

March 12, 2007

Airtroduction

Now here is an interesting thought: Have you ever checked-in to your flight, and you wished that you could influence who you would be sitting next to over the next few hours on that plane, or not sitting next to – a mother with a crying baby, a big guy with body odor, or the smart interesting entrepreneur, or even a beautiful girl (or guy)???
Read more

Never pack and carry a Suitcase again?

March 9, 2007

Now, here is an interesting concept…flying luggage-free! A great deal for lazy, busy, rich, or any combination of those frequent flyers. Flylite is providing this new service to US frequent travelers.

Here’s how it works: You sign up online, and FlyLite sends you a suitcase to fill with your usual travel kit (jeans, shampoo, golf clubs). They clean, store, and catalog everything (in a virtual closet that you can arrange to your liking). Before your next trip, select what you want online, and let FlyLite know where and when you’ll need it. Your stuff will be there when you arrive.

The downside: So far

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wear and tear of your luggage by commercial airlines…may not such a bad deal after all. If they ever come to Canada, I might try…or might this be a business idea worth considering??

What about the competition? Here is a list of other Luggage Shipping services, in case you are wondering. In any event…a smart move by an innovative entrepreneur from Virginia.

http://airportbags.com
http://baggagedirect.com
http://fedex.com
http://flylite.com
http://luggagefree.com
http://luggageforward.com
http://luggageconcierge.com
http://sportsexpress.com
http://ups.com
http://usxpluggageexpress.com
http://virtualbellhop.com