It’s a question that travel companies, from airlines to hotels and metasearch firms, grapple with every day in their respective sectors.
“There is enough opportunity in this space if you are focused and not trying to do a one-size-fits all,” Gokhale says.
And, IgoUgo indeed seems a bit different.
With 1.8 million unique visitors per month and some 540,000 members, Gokhale says IgoUgo attracts a different set of users, who often fashion themselves savvy travelers and amateur journalists.
And that may be tied to IgoUgo’s beginnings in 2000 as a trip-journal site rather than a review website per se.
IgoUgo aggregates and attracts plenty of its own hotel reviews, but it also has lots of trip journals, stories, tips and photo-sharing. It’s less about bashing a hotel — a worthy activity when called for — and more about relating a sometimes-life-changing travel experience.
Review writers can earn IgoUgo Go Points, redeemable for frequent flyer miles and gift certificates, for their review contributions.
Unlike established review sites such as TripAdvisor, property owners can’t respond to a negative IgoUgo review, a situation that Gokhale claims has not been much of an issue.
She says IgoUgo’s users generally want to share positive experiences about their wanderings and, as part of a¬†recent redesign, the site’s blue, white, green and orange color scheme¬†has been altered and brightened to express that upbeat vibe.
Social media and community features, such as a newly installed I’ve Been Here app, permeate the site.
Gokhale’s statement about IgoUgo having a different demographic than that of some other review sites appears to be true.
For example, a look at media kits for advertisers from IgoUgo [June 2010] and TripAdvisor  indicates that IgoUgo [47%] has a higher proportion of visitors with household income greater than $75,000 when measured against TripAdvisor [32%].
Compared with TripAdvisor, IgoUgo attracts a higher percentage of women, a greater percentage of frequent travelers [people who have taken five to six trips in the prior year] and a higher percentage of people who dispense travel advice to others more frequently, according to ComScore data.
Of course, TripAdvisor Media Group, which includes a network of sites, draws 50 million monthly unique visitors against IgoUgo’s 1.8 million.
But, in a category as large as trip planning and reviews, you don’t have to be the largest player to make some cash.
Travelocity’s parent, Sabre, acquired IgoUgo in 2005. It became part of Travelocity a year later.
Up until the redesign last month, there hadn’t been any major overhauls of IgoUgo over the last few years and Gokhale credits Travelocity Global president and CEO Hugh Jones for recognizing that focus and new direction was needed.
IgoUgo is designed to be complementary with Travelocity as the two sites share content and do a lot of cross-promoting.
The community site, with its user forums and social networking features, makes money largely from its RateFinder search tool, display advertising and Google ads.
Gokhale declines to disclose whether IgoUgo is profitable, but adds that “management has been very pleased with our results.”
After all, although IgoUgo is all about community and sharing, Sabre is privately held and tight-lipped about its financials.