The Ultimate Travel Community Site

Passion for ideas for new companies come from lots of different places.  I’ve learned to pay attention to them and see where they lead.  Sometimes they lead somewhere; often they don’t but make me smarter about the world.

Recently an investor that I’ve gotten to know and really like started talking about an idea for the ultimate travel community web site – its purpose would be to facilitate a community comprised of members that love travel.  The community would enable sharing of ideas, recommendations and travel experiences.

When I started playing around with user generated content and local search in 2005, one of the obvious applications to me was something oriented around travel.  At the time I looked hard and found nothing particularly compelling.  Ironically, the most interesting thing was the Yahoo Travel Planner which – while interesting – was very rough and underfeatured.  It’s gotten a lot better but still misses the ball somehow – probably around its lack of real social networking and lens through “trips” rather than specific reviews in geographies.

So – I’m looking around for something like is the intersection of a deep content site like Yahoo Travel with a real social network / UGC site like the stuff at YourRunning.com.  There would be a couple of pivot points: the user, the trip, a group around a trip, and groups of interests in trips.  Each user would be able to generate a blog and other user generated content (video, photos, comments) around a specific trip.  Groups would be able to communicate with each other (via whatever the appropriate messaging is – including real time stuff like Twitter.)  All the data would be persistent – so someone interested in a specific trip could see what was good and what was bad.  Search would be pervasive and accurate across all the content on the site.

The trip construct would obviously be monetizable through the creation of actual trips (and affiliate revenue / advertising.)  This is one of the really interesting parts of the idea – once you lay out a trip online – as a function of other people’s trips – you can then make plane tickets, hotel reservations, dinner reservations, and event schedules automatically, get maps and directions, and have an itinerary generated.  Assuming that all my fantasies about the Implicit Web become true, your compute infrastructure should be smart enough to do this for you automagically.

I’ve looked around for stuff like this but keep coming up short.  If you are out there and working on this (or know of something that does this well and has a real community), leave a comment about what you are up to.

  • Bruce

    Slate had an interesting article about trying to use Wikis as the sole source of travel planning a few week ago. Can Wiki Travel.

  • Jim

    Are you familiar with flyertalk.com? Its just a forum but its a great community of frequent travelers and business travelers. I have been reading and using this site for several years for travel tips / information. Its more geared around frequent flyer talk but is very deep.

  • http://dealmakerblog.com John

    Two votes for flyertalk. Without a doubt the best source for information/community around travel programs and destinations.

  • Grant

    Hi Brad,

    This might not be exactly what you are looking for , but I thought I’d share my experience with online “travel community” sites.

    Virtual Tourist
    http://www.virtualtourist.com/

    VT is one of the oldest and most popular such sites. They focus on community building and real-life traveler interactions – such as through local meetings. Some locations have meetings every week and attract hundreds of VTers.

    I met several people in Bangkok through VT and made friends with local hosts and fellow travelers. It was an unforgettable experience to be shown around a maze of city like Bangkok by a local.

    CouchSuring
    http://www.couchsurfing.com/

    CS tries to bridge the gap between a tourist and a local by connecting the travelers to available couches all over the world. Granted it’s not for everyone, but the members also organize local meetings, bar hops, and other activities.

    There is decent number of CSers in Colorado, and Boulder in particular.

    I hosted a couple from Prague last fall here in Boulder. We camped in Aspen, hiked around the Bells and had beers with local CSers at night.

    – Grant

  • http://www.parentography.com Tim

    Brad,

    I’d second the mention of Virtual Tourist…they’re the closest I’ve seen to the description you provide. Our site, Parentography, which focuses on trip and activity planning for parents, does some of what you have in mind, but for a niche audience.

  • http://www.seeyourhotel.com Jean-Francois Noel

    We are really not there yet with http://www.seeyourhotel.com . We are trying with our site to put the location as the first criteria. We plan to add geographic querying for hotels near two or more places and make trip planning. I’ll sure keep your post as a roadmap toward a more social trip sharing site.

  • http://www.vibeagent.com Adam Healey

    Brad,

    I read your post with interest.

    We are about to launch VibeAgent (http://www.vibeagent.com) into private beta. We are focused to start on helping people find the perfect hotel at the perfect price. But this is of course just the start.

    Our site combines user reviews with meta search and social networking. Think TripAdvisor meets Kayak meets Facebook.

    We believe we have built a better mousetrap. We hope you’ll check us out, and I’d love to give you a private tour of the site anytime.

    Cheers,

    Adam Healey
    Co-founder and CEO
    VibeAgent

  • http://ben.casnocha.com Ben Casnocha

    This is something I’ve been looking for for a great long while. The problem is we’re all so idiosyncratic in our travel styles and needs that no single, giant community site can cover us all.

    I think there are many interesting business ideas around travel, reservations, and community feedback on geographies — but I’m wary of throwing it all under one tent.

  • http://www.roygraff.info Roy

    I know of a great concept that is truly revolutionary and will be ideal for such a business. It is called seemytrip.com (http://www.seemytrip.com for a demo) and it allows users to create their own interactive itinerary using mapping tools, text, audio and images all working together seamlessly.

    One of the biggest travel markets in the world is going to be China. With more than 200 million middle class Chinese wishing to travel abroad and the many tour attractions in China, it is destined to become the top tour destination and market by 2020.
    I have a business plan for a travel booking company that will solve the communication and cultural problems of travel between China and the rest of the world. If you can crack the Chinese market, the rest of the world is easy.
    Details of the plans are here:
    http://www.ccontact.com/royraff/traveltechnow2007.htm

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    from a readerThe closest thing to this that I’ve seen is Lonely Planet’s website. They’ve created a very unique community that still maintains its independence from all the marketing. You see, one will have difficulty creating a real community if all the members think that someone is out there to sell them tickets; it loses its authenticity. This is a delicate balancing act that really puts pressure on the standard revenue models.

  • http://www.tripconnect.com Carter Nicholas

    Ben hit it on the head. Travel preferences are so idiosyncratic and multi-faceted that many people have tried and failed to prevent a good “travel suggestion” engine. This is why when we created TripConnect (http://www.tripconnect.com) we built in a powerful social networking mechanism. The driving concept is to give people access to relevant travel advice, but what we believe in is the untapped knowledge of your own circles of acquaintances and friends. They understand your uncategorizable tastes and idiosyncrasies, and between them they have been to all the places you want to go. Providing a tool to help people uncover and tap into this knowledge is what we are about. Beyond immediate friends, we create groups, either private or based on specific activities and interests, and populate these groups with people, content and destination suggestions based on tagging and self selection.

    -Carter Nicholas – Co-Founder, TripConnect

  • Mark Phillips

    I’m a Boulder Couchsurfer. Great site. More myspace-ey than yourrunning.com-ey, but still very useful and it has a very energetic and dedicated user-base.

    It’s a NFP now, but they surveyed users about advertising and subscription options this month. They’re trying to figure out the revenue piece.

  • http://tachophobia.com Rick

    Like Squidoo for travel. Instead of a “lens”, people would create locations.

    It’s a good idea but a busy space.

    Travel related keywords are the 4th or 5th highest revenue grossing category for Google’s Adwords. (ie it’s a good advertising space.)

  • http://exold.com/ David

    This is a stylistic nitpick with a phrase in this particular post — nothing to do with the content (which is, as usual, interesting).

    In the sentence “Recently an investor that I’ve gotten to know and really like started talking about an idea for the ultimate travel community web site – its purpose would be to facilitate a community comprised of members that love travel,” the word “comprised” is not used in the way that is traditionally preferred.
    The traditional usage is that “the whole comprises the parts, and that the parts compose the whole” (http://www.bartleby.com/64/C003/070.html). A changed sentence might read “…its purpose would be to facilitate a community comprising members that love travel,” or “…its purpose would be to facilitate a community composed of members that love travel.”

  • http://www.timeatlas.com Anne H

    If you like Lonely Planet, you might like to know that Don George (past editor of Lonely Planet) is now editing Recce for Geographic Expeditions. The site isn’t a community site like you’re looking for, but an online magazine with contributions from some of the best travel writers around.

    http://www.geoex.com/recce/index.asp

  • http://blob.touristr.com Jan Blanchard

    See the world through the eyes of other users. This is our motto at TouristR. I love traveling and have spent the last year building a community travel site with in mind of what you have described above.

    The trick is to keep only the essentials. It’s very tempting to combine flickr, facebook, expedia, lonely planet, tripadvisor, twitter etc.. but it gets confusing very quickly. I love simple things.

    TouristR is about sharing travel destinations. Every day we have to restrain ourselves from adding cool features because we want to keep it simple!

    We’re in private beta right now and we love feedback (hint hint) and my email is jan@touristr.com

    Jan Blanchard – Founder http://www.TouristR.com

  • http://direwolff.wordpress.com/ p-air

    You may also want to check out RealTravel (http://realtravel.com). I’ve heard that they have been growing very nicely in this niche.

  • http://www.pairup.com Esteban Sardera

    Another friendly plug for PairUp at http://www.PairUp.com I launched at DEMO 07.

    PairUp is a networking site for business travelers (think Expedia + LinkedIn) and just had a booth show at ad:tech San Francisco where I talked about Connected Travel(tm) and Connected Advertising(tm).

    Always interested in potential partnerships for the folks out there…


    Esteban Sardera
    Founder
    PairUp

  • http://me.dium.com/from/5d48c tobias

    Brad – boo.com is back.

    Not as the high-end sports-gear e-tailer of yesteryear, but as a comunity travel site.

  • Barrett

    Hi Brad, I am currently living in Germany and am starting a company aimed at exactly what you’re talking about — the ultimate travel website. Our goal is create *real* community around people’s favorite places on earth. We have 5 world class business intelligence developers working on the site right now. Currently, we are set to go beta this summer…also, since we are a small startup, we are looking for private investors. If you’re interested in investing or know folks that are looking to invest, please have them contact me and I will send them our executive summary. Thanks and Best, BwC

  • http://darrenjohnson.blogspot.com/ Darren Johnson

    Hey Brad,

    I just took a Director position at a company called Zonder you might want to checkout (www.zonder.com). We are focused on the vacation rentals space, but are incorporating a lot of the features you talk about. We’ll also be raising another round here in the next year or so… :)

    Best,

    Darren Johnson
    Director of Product Marketing
    Zonder.com

  • http://www.flying-pegasus.com odysseus

    I would always google for my travel information. Wikitravel, virtualtourist, etc are good info source but ultimately, the decision falls back on us.

  • Charles Warren

    i am building a web site that is exactly what you are looking for. i have already put a business case together on this and should have something very soon in the next month or so. i was hoping i was the only guy with this idea. give me a buzz to discuss further
    charles_w@btinternet.com

  • http://www.lancasterpahotels.com Oliver Feakins

    Great post! i'll be sure to check those out. We are working on a site that offers travel information for beautiful Lancaster County, PA. Be sure to visit http://www.lancasterpahotels.com for more info.

  • http://iguide.travel iGuide

    Don't start this site; it already exists, and has existed since about 2000 and is called VirtualToruist. There is no way to compete in the social media segment, its like trying to compete with Wikipedia by doing the same thing they do! The best site in any given category tends to rise to the top, and often there is no room for seconds. And I know I own a mid-sized niche travel site of my own, I've linked with my name.