RIP IgoUgo – the review site Travelocity wanted to compete with TripAdvisor

Remember IgoUgo? Back in the days of pre-social travel and before TripAdvisor became the beast it is now, IgoUgo was the OTHER user review service on the web.

IgoUgo was in some ways unnervingly similar to its review-led rival, having launched around the same time in 2000 and positioned as a new breed of travel site in the un-chartered waters of consumer-generated content and with a revenue model based on media and leads to partner sites.

Such was the draw of its 500,000 members contributing thousands of reviews of hotels and destinations around the world that in 2005, just a year after Expedia bought Tripadvisor, rival online travel agency Travelocity-parent company Sabre paid an undisclosed sum to buy the company.

Back in the mid-2000s, user review sites were rare yet obviously and increasingly important to existing players looking to get a handle on the enthusiasm by consumers to share their experiences.

In fact, by 2004 the site had been handed a Webby Award for “Best Site in the US” and appeared to be going from strength to strength with 1.5 million visitors a month.

What could go wrong?

Well, IgoUgo just wasn’t TripAdvisor. It appeared (at least in terms of performance) to have not enlisted vast teams of SEO nerds behind the scenes working tirelessly to ensure content pages performed strongly in Google search listings.

So as TripAdvisor carved out an enviable and more recently unassailable position as the go-to site on the web for hotel reviews, IgoUgo languished.

Expedia reaped the benefits of realising there was bounty to be had via TripAdvisor on building a community and, more importantly, a new revenue stream from clicks to partner sites.

IgoUgo co-founders Tony Cheng and Jim Donnelly left their positions pretty quickly after the acquisition (Cheng launched TripFilms in 2007; Donnelly was gone even sooner into incubator-land) and Travelocity was saddled with a brand which was never going to recover or indeed challenge TripAdvisor.

Despite a relatively high-profile relaunch of the brand in 2010 with a focus on social travel planning, just at the same time as every other startup appeared to be also wading into the same territory, IgoUgo was perhaps always going to be also-ran of user generated content.

Fast forward to late-2013 and members have been notified that IgoUgo will stop accepting new reviews this week and will eventually close completely in the first quarter of 2014.

“The decision to close IgoUgo was a difficult one to make. We sincerely appreciate your contributions over the years and are proud of what we have all been able to do together.

“More than 500,000 travelers came together to explore and inspire within the IgoUgo community, contributing hundreds of thousands of reviews and photos of everything from cheap eats to luxury hotels in more than 9,000 destinations worldwide.”

Reviews and other content will be transferred to Travelocity early next year ahead of the closure, the message says.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



  1. Yvonne Tison Bennett

    A pretty true synopsis of the chain of events that led to the demise of IgoUgo. As a member for nearly 10 years (and two-time Travel Writer of the Year), I saw significant decline in the site once Travelocity acquired it. They always seemed to be tinkering with their platform. Earlier this year, I think the writing was on the wall. With the failed launch of a new “game” structure on 10/1/13, it was inevitable that IgoUgo could not sustain the model they were grasping to achieve. What may have been worse is the fact that their new game platform has been about as buggy as and many very loyal contributors of content lost hope and gave up.

    As a former Destination Expert for several locations on the Trip Advisor site, I have seen their warts too. Their content is totally on the backs of many loyal volunteers who freely contribute content and forum advice. Without them, TA would have and be nothing. And that is what they give to those who tirelessly give of their time and expertise.

    I pray that some new travel forum will rise from the ashes, as I doubt either Expedia or Travelocity will ever have the traveling public front and center in their efforts.

    Indeed . . . RIP IgoUgo!


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