On average, I receive about two emails a week announcing new Travel 2.0 websites. I know that they mostly come from PR people, but some seem more genuine than others, which can border on spam. I find most of them of some interest, but only now and then am I smitten enough to be drawn away from my other activities to write a review.
However, I also know that just because I may not be overly excited about a new website, does not mean that other people might not be. So in deference to a presenting a balanced picture of Travel 2.0, this blog posting is summary of the websites that have been recommended to me in in the past month (not listed in any special order), along with my impressions.
Pariscontest.ning.com - A Travel Contest to Build User Content
From surveys that I have heard about, after the US, the top international destination that people in China want to visit in France. Ruyi-ParisHotel.com is a website for Chinese traveling to Paris, and elsewhere in Europe. However, they are also running a contest in English on the free social website buider, Ning.com. It is one of the smaller contests that I have seen. You can win a US$99 gift certificate to Amazon.com if you submit a suggestion on how to visit Paris on $99 or less a day (1 meal, 1 hotel, 1 activity). Sounds like an inexpensive promotional effort that could gain them some useful information. I found their use of Ning.com particularly of interest, since I am a active participant on that site (see here, for example). - Ruyi Travel Blog (blog in Chinese) - English - Contest Promo - Ruyi-ParisHotels (in Chinese)
Destination Meta-Guide.com 2.0
This is not a new website, but it has apparently undergone some rennovations to make it more of a “daily green travel newspaper” for virtually every country on Earth. This site is for people who want to know what contemporary issues that are really going on in a country, beyond the general guidebook information. In addition to basic visitor information, it provides NGO and UN information and "the latest green travel news." A lot of destination information and definitely more for the serious traveler than the purely recreational one.
Travelwebdir.com -Travel Web Directory
This site claims to only include sites that have been selected by real humans as being the best in each of their many categories. It kind of reminds me of the old Yahoo directories (do they still exist somewhere?), and as such feels more like Web 1.0 -- find a category and see the websites or online article. It is apparently still very new and many of the categories (such as travel podcasts) are empty. In addition, the email I received stated: "You can add your travel related site or your travel articles for free to our directory: Don't miss this awesome opportunity to gain visibility and pagerank at once!" It is easy to submit a website link. They only require that it be a "quality" site and that the site link back to the Travel Web Directory. There was no definition of "quality," however. Definitely a beta site with a lot more work to do.
eBookers.es - Mobile phone phrase books
For 4 Euros you can download a 17 language phrasebook from the Spain-based eBookers.es. The website is entirely in Spanish, since English is one of the 17 languages (and the PR announcement was in English), it should work for us Anglophones. There are 200 traveler-related phrases that are both shown in text and vocalized on the phone. Since I travel mostly in Asia, Manadarin Chinese and Japanese are included, though Bahasa-Malay/Indonesia is not. In addition, my HTC phone is not on the list of phones that the phrasebook will work on. And finally, have you actually ever bought one those little pocket phrase books? I have, over the years, but I have never actually pulled one out and used it.
SegnaloItalia.it - Digg-like voting system for Italian tourism
This website focuses on alternative accommodations, such as B&B and farm stays, plus events, and touring routes. Places and establishments are rated and reviewed, all in Italian, from what I saw. And there is a Google map showing the distribution, and you can see who has voted for what sites. If you know a little Italian, this could be a great resources for seeing the "real Italy."
Extravigator.com - Discussion forum for luxury travel
The website describes itself as "Haute Travel Talk" and "Where sophisticted travelers go to discuss first class experiences." Categoried includ hotels, dining, spas, shopping, and more. Since I cannot afford traveling first class, this is not a site that I find much interest in. (I am, however, a charter subscriber to Budget Travel magazine -- I have 10 years of back issues.)
Chokti.com - Multimedia destination information
To me, Chokit is sort of a YouTube portal for travel destinations. They link to audio (podcasts?), videos, photos, maps and journals, and users can upload their own material and aggregate them for specific destinations, which can then be presented on a personal or business website. I am not sure how the latter works. When I browse the site I see about 1300 resources listed -- most of which seem to be videos of the US and Europe. There was only one for Southeast Asia. Some a linked from Youtube and similar sites, while others were apparently uploaded by amateur users. There are quite a few other travel video sites out there, and I guess one difference with Chokti is the ability to add other multimedia files -- though I did not see any browsing around Europe, Asia and North America. I also found the interface somewhat cumbersome.
Nile Cruise Podcast
This is supposed to be a weekly podcast. They have three episodes up, and the last one was posted on Oct 22. It is a good podcast, but hmmm, they seem to be a few weeks behind -- unless they have already podfaded. (Three podcasts is a very common podfading break point.)
Tripology.com - Connecting travelers with travel agents
Despite of (or maybe because of) the growth in online travel, Americans are apparently returning to travel agents to some degree, in part because doing it all themselves is perceived to take too much time. On the Tripology website, travelers can submit a trip request (by destination or type of trip) and get responses from one to three travel agents from the Tripology network of over 6000 travel agents. To connect you with the best agent, the site asks a lot of information about your planned trip. While I can see that a travel agent would like much of that information to plan a trip, I can also see how the Tripology website owners could use this information for product development and marketing. I personally am uncomfortable providing a lot of information like this online. I also rarely use travel agents, though their list of travel agent myths gives some good reasons to consider one. Even though they have a blog, there is nothing else that is "Web 2.0" from the users perspective.
This review took a lot longer to research and write up than I expected. There are some interesting efforts taking place. While quite a few of them fall short of ideal (from my perspective), I still think theat they all provide insight into the exploding landscape of Travel 2.0.