TripAdvisor to close VirtualTourist travel guide site
VirtualTourist, one of the first brands focused on providing online guides to travellers, is being axed by its parent company.
Members will be officially notified of the closure shortly.
An official at Smarter Travel says the site has seen “declining engagement” in recent years, not least with the growth of Facebook, leading it to make the “tough decision”.
The company will, instead, focus its “efforts and resources on the areas of our business that have stronger growth potential”, the official adds.
Before the recent fall in activity, the numbers behind VirtualTourist had been reasonably impressive.
The site had some 1.3 million members, many of which had contributed to sharing 3.7 million photos and posted 1.8 million travel tips for over 70,000 locations around the globe.
It currently boasts around nine million unique users a month and facilitates “dozens” of live meet-ups each week around the globe.
But losing ground to the likes of Facebook (the, err, original “Facebook for travel”) is a familiar story for those that initially had a reasonably decent community platform of travellers who were willing to send in their own recommendations and content, but soon found themselves usurped by the ubiquitous social network that catered not only travel but every aspect of everyday life.
The brand stopped tweeting in the summer of 2016 but was active on its Facebook page until the end of the year.
Like Facebook, VirtualTourist had its roots in the dorm rooms of a university (Germany’s Karlsruhe) and then made the move to Silicon Valley to broaden its appeal (and backing).
TripAdvisor came along in July 2008 and snapped up both VirtualTourist and travel comparison site OneTime for an undisclosed fee (though a widely rumoured $85 million was often bandied around in tech circles).
Members of the site will be encouraged to save any of their personal content currently held on the site and exchange contact details with fellow members before the door finally shuts.
The official says:
“Much of the rich, destination-based content found on VirtualTourist will be moved to SmarterTravel and we are hopeful that VT members will continue to stay connected via other travel communities, such as the TripAdvisor forums.”
Other brands included in the Smarter Travel Media portfolio include content sites CruiseCritic, AirfareWatchdog and HolidayWatchdog, as well as booking sites Tingo and Jetsetter.
Smarter Travel Media says no other sites are scheduled to close.
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in late-2016.