The best trip planning sites might be those that focus on motivation, not inspiration
For many people travel is all about realising dreams, a brief respite from the daily grind of life and the chance to get inspired by places that they visit.
At least that is what dozens of sites out there are trying to achieve – inspire people to travel, where are the cool places to go to make dreams a reality, etc, etc (to use some marketing-speak).
But back at the end of April I wrote about how hard trip inspiration is. That post kicked off a great debate!
So, perhaps we are all looking at the problem the wrong way? Indeed, do you need a website to suggest that you ought to visit Agra or hike in the Rockies?
Even if such a website were to be useful to a consumer, monetising it would be a challenge as the “inspiration point” is so far ahead of the booking period (could even be measured in years for big ticket trips).
Perhaps then the goal of these websites should be motivation not inspiration. Trip motivation starts just after the inspiration phase and involves getting the traveller to get off their butt and go, rather than sitting around dreaming about it.
Because the site usage point will be during the booking period, product based monetisation may work (eg. selling travel services like flights, hotels, tours etc).
How would I design a website focussed on trip motivation?
The first piece of important functionality will be for the user to upload their so-called “bucket list”. This could be the top ten places to go or the activities they want to experience.
A few websites have already gone down this route – mainly using images (TravelAvenue, Qiito, GetSplash). Google Schemer, which launched in December last year, on the other hand uses text only. This needs to be a fun process, as this will take at least twenty minutes or so.
Now the service knows that one of the trips on my bucket list is to “backpack around the Cape Verde Islands going between the Islands on the old ferries”.
So far so good. But what else?
It is 2012. The website needs a social element. Lets see what Google Schemer is doing…
Firstly my Cape Verde ferry trip… Sadly none of my Google+ friends share my desire for this trip. Never mind!
However one friend, who handily runs a travel agency, has provided some web links for some flight prices. Has that motivated me? Not really. But helpful, thanks Stuart!
Google Schemer has a little more success with my desire to “Eat at The Fat Duck restaurant”.
Now I can see that three of my friends want to do it! Great! With a single click I can “rally” these accomplices via a post that will appear on Google+. Will that increase the chance of it happening? Hummm – not convinced.
For a restaurant meal this functionality is perhaps reasonable – I would be happy (indeed delighted) to spend an evening with friends. Does that mean I want to travel with them? Or, probably more importantly, would they want to travel with me!
Quoting Mark Twain:
“I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them”.
With Twain’s quote ringing in my ears, I am not convinced that social-based trip motivation will quite work as planned. Instead motivation needs to be personal.
For example – say I am considering a two-week trip in six months time. What would motivate me might be:
- Regular updates once a week about the destination (eg. something to read while eating lunch at my desk) – including perhaps a weekly quiz (so the trip motivation service can check that I am actually engaging with the content)
- A “Mr Motivator” – who I can chat to on Skype for 30 minutes – and we can dream and plan together…. they don’t necessarily need to know the destination but can just be a good chatter.
Now this is going to require quite an amount of personalised content management. It could well take someone several hours to create all these updates and quizzes for my enjoyment and infotainment.
Would I pay for that time? I think I would, people pay for glossy magazines so people will pay for this. It’s escapism with a purpose.
We can use crowd-sourcing to obtain this content. Just like Stuart added information about flights to my Cape Verde trip on Google Schemer, others will enjoy helping people plan and dream about future trips. Could even gamify this aspect with points and a public ranking system.
Do you agree that fixing trip motivation is a stronger approach than fixing trip inspiration? Will we see a new category of travel startups based on this?
Alex is a contributing Node to Tnooz and writes about travel technology, travel startups, specialist tour operators and the tours & activities sector. He has previously led ecommerce, social media and reservation system projects for airlines, leading mainstream tour operators and hotel distribution companies in both leisure and business travel sectors.
He is the CEO of TourCMS, a web based software-as-a-service reservation system and distribution platform used by many specialist tour operators worldwide to take online bookings and distribute to 3rd parties.
He also moderates Small Fish Big Ocean, a community that welcomes small tour operators and niche travel agents to come and discuss travel ecommerce issues. Alex has a computing degree, is passionate about usability, speaks French and still writes and reviews code.