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 Schemerwhich 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?

Social elements

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”.

Non-social functionality

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?

NB: Inspire travel image via Shutterstock.

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Alex Bainbridge

About the Writer :: Alex Bainbridge

Alex is a contributor to tnooz and writes about travel technology, travel startups, in destination guides and the tours & activities sector.

His most recent business TourCMS (sold October 2015) was the original leader in tours & activities distribution, connecting up hundreds of local tour suppliers with leading online travel agents. The industry architecture he put in place during that period is now the regular approach adopted globally by the entire local tour industry.

He is now CEO of a new in destination project coming soon.

Alex has a computing degree, is passionate about usability, speaks French and still writes and reviews code. Follow him on twitter @alexbainbridge



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  1. Thomas the Bescoverer

    Inspiration comes when you least expect it, many times after you give up, or when you are thinking about something else. You may become inspired to get involved in charity work after crossing paths with an out of work homeless person in your neighborhood, or late at night as you stumble upon a work-out DVD program while flipping through the channels,or even a drive to work harder after embarking on a new relationship with someone who you fall for and want to impress. So why not find inspiration in travel? I see no problem with it. But, it can not be contrived, it must be organic and free-flowing, like creativity. So trip motivation is much easier to achieve than trip inspiration, and you can make it concrete, where trip inspiration is more cerebral.

  2. Kuan Sng

    Thoughtful post, Alex. Aside from your point about inspiration factoring in early in the purchase cycle, it would seem pan-global sites (e.g., Pinterest, Wanderfly) function better as inspirers, while single destination sites should focus on motivation.

    As a luxury travel firm specializing in China, I’d venture that by the time someone has found or is actively engaging on our site, inspiration has already delivered part of the destination choice-whittling and while we can always inspire more and up the ante, motivating actual trip planning would seem a better tack.

  3. Han

    This is one of best article that I have ever read and keep me thinking.
    Anyway, I believe Inspiration works together with motivation. You need to inspire someone first (giving a goal) then motivate him/her to achieve that. Motivation is a process to achieve inspiration.

    P.S. Dear Alex, Quito should be spelt as Qiito. I believe the spelling check altered Qiito to Quito.

    Thank you very much and looking forward for more amazing article from you!

  4. Peter Daams

    Couldn’t agree more Alex. People love to get motivated for upcoming trips.

    It’s not new though.

    Travel forums like ours have been helping with trip motivation for years. And it’s very much a social thing. They sign up, find other people going through the same thing (i.e., planning a gap year in Australia) and communicate through the site constantly up until their trip starts. They use our forums mainly for trip motivation. And often that process starts a good year or more in advance and stops as soon as they have left on their trip.

    As an analogy – when people quit smoking, it’s very helpful to have someone else quitting with them at the same time (so I’ve heard). This is the exact same thing. It calms the nerves about a big trip, helps them keep focussed and builds excitement.

    So social is certainly a part of motivation – just not socializing with your current friends.

    As far as inspiration goes.. I’m afraid Pinterest is really stealing that thunder from most of the dedicated travel inspiration sites.

  5. Meghan's Guilty Pleasures Travel Blog

    I’ve always felt they go hand in hand. Inspiration plants the seed & motivation seals the deal.

  6. Peter Syme

    Remember when you are motivating someone you are actually trying to get that someone to motivate many others. If you are going to all the bother of trying to inspire and motivate, make sure you give the tools, reasons and compelling story why this inspired and motivated individual should go out and inspire and motivate his 12 mates!

  7. Red Hunt

    Fantastic post, I wholly agree that motivation can be a more powerful travel tool than inspiration. Inspiring photos and stories are great, but they’re not always relevant to someone… motivating them, by knowing their interests, is key.
    From my experience, I can look at it from the business side instead of the traveller side. Tour companies like G Adventures (where I worked for many years) have the option to save any tour on their site to a ‘wishlist’. Similar to your bucket list concept. From that they know where/when someone wants to travel and can send fun trivia, photos, tips, offers targeted to that person. (Non-social functionality)
    Technically it’s what CRM in travel is meant to do….understand your customers more, so you can motivate them to travel more – or at least travel with you instead of someone else.
    I know such targeted messages perform great, compared to generic blog posts, tweets and newsletters. Oddly though, even with that capability very few companies take advantage of it as much as they should (G Adventures included).

  8. Heddi Cundle

    Really interesting article and this absolutely relates to my start up – we’re focusing on the trip inspiration that then, through gifting & saving, this generates the motivation. We are NOT focusing on the destination as the focal – we address and inspire for the objective ‘behind’ the dream trip. Inspiration always comes before motivation – it can only be fed in this direction to generate hype and fulfill the objective.

    So basically combats both inspiration and instantly, motivation which is why we’re unique, we’re getting thousands of visitors a month and nailing your theory on its head! Our focus solving price hype problem yet we also absolutely address your topic. Nice to know we’re on track – thank you! 🙂

  9. Adam Costa

    Alex, that is a brilliant post.

    One word on monetization: travel inspiration sites can monetize in different ways, beyond trip bookings.

    We looked into bookings before launching Trekity and couldn’t believe how low the commissions were. Trying to get someone to spend $500 for a $10 commission seems like a whole heap of work, regardless of whether you’re focusing on inspiration or motivation.

    Instead, monetize by creating your own products (preferably digital due to higher profit margins) and sell them on the site.

    Not only does this produce higher returns, it builds a stronger relationship with your readers. I look at inspiration sites which monetize through bookings, and to be honest, they just don’t make sense for two reasons:

    1. As you pointed out, inspiration is awfully early in the buying cycle, making sales difficult, and…
    2. As a business model, you’re a middle man of a middle man.

    A motivation site would be killer, and if I had any bandwith I’d try to incorporate it into Trekity – but alas, that’s a bit out of our scope.

    Anybody else willing to take this idea on?

  10. Stuart Lodge

    Super human travel agent? Why thank you.

    Personally have always thought the perfect travel agent would look a bit like Davros from Doctor Who

    Fed by tubes, immobile, the brain the size of a planet, minus however the “evil wanting to rule the universe streak”. Looks a bit node like come to think of it.

    My issue with a lot of futurology is many folk confuse genuine tech with automation. Some things just aren’t as good when automated. RTWs, multistops, tailor-made, conversation, sex.

    Quite a lot of folk quite still like talking to people who know what they’re on about (on or offline, social or not). Can that be monetised. Yup. Has been for a while.

    Hup Hup as they say in Scandi


    • Alex Bainbridge

      Hi Stuart
      Yes – you are right on your point about automation…… I spend a lot of time talking to my local tour operators about efficiency being the ultimate goal – not automation.

      Very important point that (especially as larger companies strive for automation – and smaller companies want to copy larger companies)


  11. Greg Solovyev

    Stuart, you are right, except that we need some sort of a super-human travel agent. You could say the same about needing a librarian before there was Google. Now Google is the super-human librarian. A travel agent just cannot keep up with the amount and diversity of content, let alone staying up to date with new content.
    (Pardon my spelling. Typing on the iPhone)

    • David Anderson

      Good article, as it does point out the (yet again) necessity of not just a Travel Agent, but a Travel Advisor that is not only trusted, but also specializes.

      Greg, you are correct – most travel agents cannot come close to knowing it all – but those who specialize in not only specific products, but also destinations and lifestyles, like we do at Avoya Travel, are highly successful.


  12. Greg Solovyev

    Alex, this is brilliant! This Mark Twain quote made my day. It sums up all the nonsense that is going on in “social travel”.

  13. Stuart Lodge


    Sounds awfully like you need someone who would be offering flights, expertise, quotes, blogs, planning, maps, itineraries, support, nouse, wisdom, canniness. Who looks like Mr Motivator: Someone open seven days a week, early and late….Someone almost like…..a Travel Agent….eeek.

    Run for the hills. We’re back.

  14. Happy Hotelier

    You got me.
    For years already a friend of mine living near London has a standing invitation to eat with him at the Fat Duck, provided I arrive in London with my boat. On my own keel so to say….

    Inspiration and/or motivation?


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