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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

State Of Online Travel

Online travel is a multi-billion dollar business, contributing nearly a third to the global e-commerce activity. Consumers and businesses in this [online travel] sector, one of the early adopters of internet, have been quick in jumping to the technology bandwagon. However, not much has changed in the sector since the early days. Internet shifted the power in this ecosystem, from the suppliers, to the aggregators and search engines, which brought in more transparency and simplified the process of managing trips. However, since then it has lagged in innovation and still misses a true champion of the users, which can take away the pains of managing end-to-end process of managing travel experiences - from deciding the destination to arranging conveyances and accommodation to preserving post-trip memories - while making it all fun. 

Online travel companies have been mostly focusing on only one part of the overall travel experience - managing conveyance and accommodation. Most of the online travel portals, applications and companies compete in this area. Lately, however, this sector has seen activity from companies which, instead of focusing on the logistics of travel, are focusing on the core reason we travel - to see [new] things; to have new travel experiences. While some of this activity has been done by the established players, the transformation has been largely led by new startups. 


Trip Advisor's Trip Friends is an initiative in that direction. The idea behind Trip Friends is to leverage TripAdvisor's travel database and Facebook's social graph, so that you can get travel advice and reviews from your friends. 


Wanderfly (founded in 2009) is another interesting initiative with a focus on travel experiences, rather the logistics. A travel recommendation engine, Wanderfly taps into existing databases of its partners to provide best recommendations for a trip. 


Trippy (founded in 2011) seems like is pretty much a Pinterest rip-off. At first glance, almost everything about it has been "inspired" or lifted from the famous social networking website. You can pin your favorite travel locations and manage boards. Their "Create Trip" feature is probably the only non-Pinterest-inspired one. 


GTrot (founded in 2009) urges its users to share information about their city. The site seems to be working towards building a database of information on cities. In addition to places, it also allows people to share food, shopping and entertainment related activities.


These initiatives/startups are trying to break the age-old mould of online travel industry and bringing the focus back to the user and travel experience. Having said that, we still lack a truly integrated product that takes care of online travel end-to-end and puts the fun back in trips again.

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