travel inspiration
4 years ago
 

When conversation still trumps the web, can websites REALLY inspire people to travel?

NB: This is a viewpoint from Drew Meyers, co-founder of Oh Hey World.

You never hear anyone say “No, I don’t want to travel” if asked. Everyone wants to travel, yet most have excuses why they don’t.

It goes without saying, as a self-professed travel addict, I want more people to be inspired to spend their money on travel experiences they’ll remember in 30 years rather than physical goods forgotten the moment they’re out of sight.

People aren’t traveling, and there’s a disconnect somewhere. Desire and action don’t match.

Acknowledging the disconnect, I’m still not convinced there is any need whatsoever for websites attempting to solve the “travel inspiration” problem.

As I’ve said, travel inspiration is not a pain point in need of a solution.

Why?

Well, I spent the last week in Hawaii with seven close friends for a wedding. After that amazing trip, we couldn’t help but be inspired to take another trip and started planning before we even left Hawaii.

Now granted, the vast majority of our friends are avid travelers (hence, the reason they are such great friends), so that makes sense — it’s not exactly hard to get any of us on another airplane.

And over the past few days, I’ve seriously contemplated no fewer than five different trip options for 2013 and 2014: Iceland. Nicaragua. Belize. Panama. Brazil. Oktoberfest (again). The Trans Siberian Railroad. Bali (again). India.

The number of websites I’ve looked at?

Zero.

All my “travel inspiration” came from my conversations with trusted travel companions over the past weeks and months (and, yes, years).

My best buddy and I were at the airport in Honolulu on Friday talking over drinks about a trip we should take this fall or winter. We discussed the pros and cons of various destinations, and texted with two other high school friends of mine in the states (one in Seattle, the other in Vegas) throughout the process.

Separately, a different group of friends spent a good hour trading group texts Saturday about a location for a 2014 “America-thon” (began in Santorini 2010 and continued this year in Oahu). The top preference is currently Brazil.

Another two friends are thinking about going to Asia for their honeymoon later this year. They don’t know where to start since they’ve never been to that part of the world before and are only occasional travelers.

They have asked me numerous questions about where to go, what places are safe, how easy it is to get around, etc. Reading something on a website isn’t going to convince them to go to Asia instead of Mexico. Yet a conversation with me just might.

How do people get inspired to travel?

They talk to those they want to travel with either in person, on Skype, via text, or with a messaging app like Whatsapp. Or they talk to trusted contacts with travel experience in the region they want to visit.

They don’t rely on websites. I firmly believe most people want to be told what to do in the vast majority of situations. Travelers are no different: a website can’t make a decision for you on where to go next.

And so it begs the question, as an industry, how do we truly inspire more people to actually travel — my major entrepreneurial goal — right now?

In my mind, the most authentic way is to increase the pool of people potential travelers have to converse with, and facilitate the trip discussions in a broader group that includes looser connections, while still remaining inside a trusted and secure environment (which email, phone, and text are).

When we nail that dynamic in the travel industry, I believe we will have found a way to get more people on the road.

What form does your travel inspiration come in, and where do you get it?

NB: This is a viewpoint from Drew Meyers, co-founder of Oh Hey World.

NB2: Travel inspiration image via Shutterstock.

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  1. anton crone

    Thanks for your reply, Drew,

    I hope to add to what you say about pushing someone over the edge from desire to action. By exposing them to well researched and well written travel media (not the typical fare of personal journals, special deals and information bloggers have garnered from Wikipedia) one potentially creates more of that desire in people. The problem with access to the net means that too many people feel compelled to share their experiences online and it overshadows the fraction of truly inspirational travel media that is out there.

    thanks for your time,
    Anton

     
    • Peter Syme

      “The problem with access to the net means that too many people feel compelled to share their experiences online and it overshadows the fraction of truly inspirational travel media that is out there.”

      Anton is that not one of the great if not the greatest thing about the net? Everyone who has access can communicate and share and in doing so will learn and develop.

      Quality will normally rise to the top and it could be argued that because of the mass competition the quality end will get better?

       
      • anton crone

        No doubt,

        Thanks Peter. All true. But that quality is so much harder to find now and I believe it will become harder still. Because there is so much access and so much competition, websites are falling over themselves to share “unique” experiences, info and offers to out do one another. For example I have had numerous requests on my very small, unmonetized website from people who want to write guest posts about Africa (this is the subject of my website). In vetting them, the majority have not actually traveled to the continent, and their proposals have ranged from: Africa’s Top Ten Cities to Do’s and Don’t in Africa. Two of them believed West Africa was a country.

        I have spoken to numerous other African bloggers and they have similar examples. What I am trying to get at is if people who don’t even travel propose to write about their non trips to small unmonetized websites (like mine), then what is going on in the bigger picture?

         
        • Peter Syme

          Hi Anton

          Yes you are correct in that, and I am afraid that is one of the downsides of travel on the net lots of useless content being produced just to feed the google god.

          Being and endless optimist I still think quality like what is demonstrated on your site will win out in the end.

          By the way check out http://www.adventuretravel.biz/connect/summit/ 600 plus of us heading down to Namibia later this year maybe something or people of interest for you.

          Just a thought as well as the non travellers who do write about trips in a rubbish way their must be thousands of travellers, like myself , who do not write anything. Must be a business their somewhere for the whizz kids on here

           
          • anton crone

            Thanks for the compliment, Peter!

            That summit looks really worthwhile. I’ll read more. Your last point is worth thinking about – experienced folk like you who are deeply involved in adventure/travel getting to the core of it. Could be truly inspiring stuff if collected in one node.

            Now, Peter, if you haven’t done it yet – the Zambezi. Victoria falls is a short flight from Windhoek. Get your lifejacket on.

             
        • Drew Meyers

          Agree with you to a degree. There is now too much information out there, so finding the great content among the sea of crap is challenging — and will continue to be that way for quite some time. Most travelers don’t want to spend hours and hours researching (though there are people who enjoy the research/planning process – I’m not one of them).

           
          • anton crone

            True, Drew.

            Research is actually stress. Like many folk, one of my favourite ways to travel is to pick a destination I know the least about – and just go. It becomes more of a personal discovery that way. Sometimes the most inspirational stuff I do find on the net isn’t about a destination, but about a way of travelling.

            Great Topic, Drew.

             
          • Peter Syme

            Drew and we go full circle and that is why I am obsessed with finding and inspiring the social travellers. It is working 2011 4.6 travellers per booking 2012 5.09 per booking 2013 so far 7.06 travellers per booking. I want to reach 10 per booking by 2015.

             
  2. anton crone

    Thanks for your article, Drew, but I cannot help but observe that it is a subjective piece. Yes, conversation has always played a major role in travel decisions, and will do so in the future, but surely you accept that travel websites and blogs play a very influential part in the decisions of people outside of your immediate social network? This is especially true of the younger generation who have the finances to travel and are looking for something unique, something their friends have not experienced.

    Best,
    Anton

     
    • Drew Meyers

      Yup, there is no hard data to back this up. Websites, blogs, etc are part of the process for some people – and you’re right, the younger generation trusts those more so than other generations. But let me reiterate again. I’m talking about pushing someone over the edge from desire to action. Not the research process once you decide to go somewhere. Certainly, websites are part of that research process in a big way (even though I don’t think many people want to spend as much time as it currently takes to wade through everything, but that’s another topic for another day).

       
  3. S. Lampkin

    Hi Drew, really great article. As it turns out I’m creating an app (www.hoowenware.com) to address the communication and sharing aspect of your thesis. The mobile capabilities will act similar to “GroupMe” or “WhatsApp” to allow people to form a consensus about where to go (and when to go) and the broader app facilitates the planning process: cost sharing, itinerary consolidation (like TripIt Groups), and many other sharing collaboration tools. There’s a demo video on the landing page. Please check it out, I would love your feedback!

     
  4. Raul Goncalves

    Great viewpoint, and for sure people choose their travel destinations with the help of friends 🙂 That could give us some ideas about social media. On the other hand I truly believe that travel specialists blogs are a great inspiration to travel. More then the classic travel magazines

     
  5. Bart van Poll - Spotted by Locals

    You’re lucky with such friends Drew;) ! I love my friends, but they just travel differently, because most of them have young kids. And I don’t.

    In my case, travel inspiration doesn’t come from my friends, but from niche blogs and websites by travelers who travel like I want to: no highlights, just local experiences. Most of these bloggers I’ve never met, but I trust them a lot more than my friends!

    From the feedback we get on our locals’ tips on the Spotted by Locals blogs, I’m sure I’m not the only one – we inspire a lot of people to go to destinations they haven’t thought of visiting. One of our developers has never been out of his country because he doesn’t have the means – but he feels he travels the world by reading our our blogs!

     
  6. Stuart McD

    Gotta say, I totally disagree with your opening premise that “everyone wants to travel, yet most have excuses why they don’t”. You’re using what sounds to be your fairly well travelled, affluent, greater social circle as a representative group when in fact they’re not representative at all – at least not of the greater public. A vast number of people are not interested in travel* and that’s a great thing IMO.

    People get inspired by all manner of sources. A book did it for me, my wife just wanted to get out of Oz & didn’t care where she went – I don’t see why a website couldn’t do it for others and to assume, that just because websites don’t inspire you to travel doesn’t mean they don’t inspire plenty if others.

    * Some guy I met in a pub somewhere.

     
  7. Dave

    Drew: Thanks for sharing a great insight about a core barrier to travel. Virtually everyone wants to travel and dreams of amazing experiences. Few people have the personal network of active travelers that many tnooz.com readers have. And who you travel with matters a lot.

    It’s hard — and lonely — to travel by yourself. And it’s often difficult to choose where, when, and how to go. You nail the answer with: “. . . the most authentic way is to increase the pool of people potential travelers have to converse with, and facilitate the trip discussions in a broader group that includes looser connections, while still remaining inside a trusted and secure environment . . .”

    Once you’re happy with the other people you could potentially travel with, your core barrier to booking disappears and you leap aboard for the experience. In fact, I submit that this social element is so important that it trumps the destination, dates, and prices for inspiring travel in the first place.

     
  8. Jack

    “And over the past few days, I’ve seriously contemplated no fewer than five different trip options for 2013 and 2014: Iceland. Nicaragua. Belize. Panama. Brazil. Oktoberfest (again). The Trans Siberian Railroad. Bali (again). India.

    The number of websites I’ve looked at?

    Zero.”

    “They talk to those they want to travel with either in person, on Skype, via text, or with a messaging app like Whatsapp. They don’t rely on websites. I firmly believe most people want to be told what to do in the vast majority of situations.”

    I suggest, with all due respect, that this post is way off base. To suggest that travelers don’t rely on websites for inspiration and travel information is, quite simply, nonsense.

    I would hazard a guess that probably the first thing most people do when contemplating a vacation is head to their computer and start pulling up a multitude of websites. Destination sites for inspiration, followed by review sites for recommendations.

    Yeah, they’ll ask their friends if they’ve been to that particular place, and probably follow some of their recommendations if they’ve been to the same place, but ultimately a dozen or so different websites will be well and thoroughly reviewed prior to the trip. If you think text messaging and skype are better travel inspirations than websites are then all I can say is you are not the norm.

     
    • Drew Meyers

      Yes, websites are part of the research process. No one (I don’t think) is disputing that. But I can say without a doubt that getting more people to actually travel requires in person (or over phone/text) conversations. My friends and I are constantly trying to recruit more people in our network to travel with us. All the scenarios where that has worked is from real conversations. That’s been my experience at least, and I’ve talked to hundreds of travelers directly, and thousands indirectly (via thorough feedback from other hardcore travelers who have talked to hundreds or thousands themselves)

      And yes, I absolutely agree I’m not the normal traveler 🙂

       
      • Jack

        “But I can say without a doubt that getting more people to actually travel requires in person (or over phone/text) conversations.”

        Sorry, but just not buying your premise at all. And I doubt you’ll find any research to support your premise. In fact I think you’d find that all research points to the contrary.

        Good topic for discussion however.

         
        • Drew Meyers

          Agree I don’t have hard data to backup the premise. I do have 8 years of travel conversations under my belt though (my first trip abroad was 2005) – and virtually all of the decisions to actually make the leap involve conversations with people. Everyone wants to travel and most do some sort of research on websites related to that. That said, I’m specifically talking about the aspect of pushing someone over the edge and turning their desire into action.

          Thanks for the discussion.

           
          • Jonathan Meiri

            @Jack makes a fair point. Web sites are an essential part of the process.

            The key problem is product/business model. My recent experience – I’ve been spending hours on websites trying to figure out where to travel to later this summer. Looks like Cuba or Bali are the top two choices. Once I decide I wil go to Superfly (shameless self promotion) Kayak or an OTA to book the ticket.

            From a user experience point of view the two activities, ‘inspiration’ is an iterative and recursive process separate from ‘booking’ and will never be part of the tight air->hotel->car affiliate driven value chain.

             
  9. Greg Velasquez (@luxehotelier)

    Whenever someone who knows you well says “You would LOVE this place,” that’s pretty powerful. Nothing beats the great experience of a trusted friend or coworker when it comes to pushing me to book a flight. I regularly read travel blogs and publications and follow quite a few on social media but I just consider that to be “keeping abreast of what’s happening.” But it was the firsthand experience of a coworker that caused me to decide upon an unplanned trip to San Miguel de Allende, MX.

     
    • Drew Meyers

      Yes, absolutely. When a trusted friend, who has similar travel habits & values, tells me I’d like a particular destination — I listen, and will probably book a trip there at some point. I tell everyone I speak with that Santorini is my favorite place on earth — and I’ve yet to hear of someone who goes there and doesn’t fall in love with the place 🙂

       
  10. David Feldsott

    I agree & also disagree Drew on a few points. I personally don’t get much out pf travel inspiration websites either because I too am an avid traveler & I’m always inspired to travel! However, I don’t think many “inspiration” websites are for avid travelers – they aim to inspire people who don’t have travelers in their lives & don’t see beautiful pictures from their friends on vacation. Travel isn’t part of their everyday lives & maybe they never grew up traveling so seeing those images for the first time just might create a spark in them. I’ve seen it often from Facebook; pages like “Fascinating Places” are full of people who are bombarded daily w/ travel pictures, say they can’t afford to travel/wish they could, & 6 months later, they go on their first trip! While avid travelers might not need / use inspiration sites, that doesn’t make them irrelevant.

    Gillian Morris of the startup TripCommon gave a presentation in NYC a few months back. She, also being an avid traveler, admitted that she had a bias view for awhile because she traveled often. But then she realized that most travelers actually travel less than once a year (I don’t remember her exact stat).

    So while most of us here travel often, we are in the significant minority. Perhaps inspiration websites are not meaningful for us but might be everything to someone who has no previous personal connection to travel in their lives. It might just be all the inspiration they need! (Poor pun intended)

     
    • Drew Meyers

      I agree photos, blog posts, comments, etc online can help inspire people to travel. What I don’t believe, nor have seen any evidence of from anyone I’ve spoken to, is that people need a single destination to inspire them. People (from my experience) don’t sit down in front of a computer, and go specifically look for inspiration. It’s an organic process that already happens over the course of days, weeks, months, years..

       
      • David Feldsott

        I agree; it is an organic process that develops over time, but you have to start somewhere right?!

        To play devil’s advocate, which I do love playing, What about that “related article” above us. I just read it but it says that people who see photos on Facebook are inspired to book the same/similar destination as their friends. “13% of people went on to book the same or similar destination as their friends.” That seems like some evidence that inspiration websites could work…

        https://www.tnooz.com/2011/08/03/news/one-in-eight-claim-facebook-photos-inspire-them-to-book-a-destination/

         
        • Drew Meyers

          Yup – but it’s an organic process. They “happen” to see some photos in their feed over time. They aren’t specifically researching a trip. The travel inspiration sites don’t add enough value to the process to be a real business. In my opinion of course. Maybe I’m wrong…but there doesn’t seem to be a single website in that space with any sort of critical mass of users.

           
        • Alex

          I’m wondering why is nobody mentioning Gogobot? Now that’s a place that people are going to get inspired, research, share, etc.

           
          • Ron Hodson

            Assuming Gogobot is a great resource, people have to know about it – they have to do research in order to find out there is a website that cuts down on the amount of research they have to do. And if Gogobot is on page 2 of their search results, they may not be seen.

            No doubt Gogobot is far more well known than most travel sites, but I’m always amazed when I run into people that travel but don’t know about TripAdvisor. It’s still a pretty big world out there, and name recognition is not easy.

             
          • Travis Katz

            While there is a community of passionate travelers who hang out on Gogobot every day purely for the fun of discovering new places to go (people are posting amazing postcards all day long), most users actually come to Gogobot when they already have a destination in mind, and they are ready to plan the details and figure out where to stay, or they are already in a destination and need to find something cool nearby.

            That said, we believe that inspiration is not just about which destination to go to. Its which part of the island to stay on, what things I want to see while I am there, which hotel would make the perfect launching pad for my adventures. Part of our goal at Gogobot is to make planning and researching your trip feel more inspiring and fun, and less like work.

             
          • Drew Meyers

            That all makes sense to me, Travis.

             
      • Ron Hodson

        People may not be sitting in front of their computers looking for inspiration, but they are looking for information on how to filter the inspirations they already have.

        For instance, we decided we wanted to go to Australia, and there was no doubt that there was enough to do there, but we didn’t know WHAT to do, and WHERE. Figuring that out took a lot of time, since there is so much to choose from.

        We ended up flying to three cities and staying on two islands, plus staying in the jungle and a campground. We didn’t know anyone that had been to Australia before, or at least no one that was doing a family trip like ours, so we couldn’t rely on personal recommendations.

        Inspiration travel sites try to distill too much information down based on too little information submitted. Add in that their target market is people that don’t travel much, and it’s no wonder they haven’t yet succeeded.

        As for increasing the pool of travelers, I think we need to make sure we understand what the barriers really are. Do people not travel more because they are reluctant to travel to places they don’t know anything about? Or is more the cost of traveling to new places is too much of an unknown? Or other factors?

        I think there can be small changes based on focused solutions, but based on my friends and family, I think it’s more cost-driven than any other barrier.

         
        • Drew Meyers

          Totally agree cost is a huge barrier. At the same time, IF someone truly wants to travel — then they can save the money and figure out how to make it happen. There are tradeoffs they need to make, such as selling their house or not buying another car, but they can absolutely travel if they want to. They somehow need to realize that travel is a better investment for them than physical goods to make those necessary trade-offs.

          The unknown is a real issue though – my friends planning their honeymoon have the money to do it. They are just hesitant because they have never gone over to Asia before, or really traveled abroad on their own at all (one has never gone abroad, the other has only gone with other close friends who are very seasoned travelers).

           
  11. Alex

    This is a great story but the biggest caveat in my mind here is that you and/or many of your friends are avid travelers. In my case, most of my friends and I travel sporadically since we only get about 3 weeks vacation per year (ah, the corporate culture!) and most is spent traveling to see our families. So while I rarely look at websites to see WHERE to go, I do get inspired by websites/research as to what to do in the destination, how long to go for, where to stay, what to eat, etc.

    To the point of creating a larger pool of experienced travelers, trust is a fickle thing and while I don’t mind reading reviews and suggestions from others, I still double check the facts before spending my money. There are actually already plenty of communities like that – just check Travel subreddit, where users gladly engage in inspiring others with photos and stories, answer the widest array of travel-related questions, and then some.

    I’ve been actually thinking of a way to “automate” this trust, maybe with help of Facebook’s relationship graph but so far all our discussions made it apparent that this trust would make the graph pretty “shallow” – once you get into “friends of friends” zone, Facebook doesn’t really help to identify the “quality” of the relationship.

     
    • Drew Meyers

      “I do get inspired by websites/research as to what to do in the destination, how long to go for, where to stay, what to eat, etc”

      Totally with you, but you’ve already made the decision to travel by then. I prefer to spend as little time as possible ahead of time, but upon arrival I start doing a little research about what to do while there. Overall, it’s just too time consuming to figure everything out right now. So I’d rather just wing it and figure it out as I go.

      Trust is critical. With our “welcome kits”, the first thing anyone asks when they see one is “who is that, and why should I listen to them?” Would love to chat with you about the trust angle. We have a few ideas.

       
  12. Gilad Uziely

    Couldn’t agree more!
    Loved your thoughts about increasing conversations – very intersting.
    However, what might inspire people to go somewhere is what they love doing or find interesting.
    For example: If you love food and cooking – you might choose Italy as the next destination or if surfing is your thing – Then maybe Australia will be more attractive.
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,
    GU

     
  13. Peter Syme

    Drew

    Totally agree that travel inspiration is not and issue. Like you I cannot every remember someone saying “I want to travel but I do not know where to start” People want to travel, they are already inspired do so and endless media touches and re-enforces this on a daily basis without the need for inspiring websites.

    Why do they not travel, or at least not as often as they want to? Money, commitments, work, and a host of other day to day life issues with the big one being time.

    I believe after endless discussions on this subject with travellers ie our customers the issue is education which I say in a loose sense. Few people sit down and plan their lives several years ahead and even fewer make the plan happen. All people have a list of priorities in life that are constantly changing depending on what they are doing at the time and circumstances. We are lucky that travel is more often than not in that list all the time. However, it is often the first one to be dropped down the list when life is life and peoples individual circumstances change.

    Family, friends and social contacts can and do have a huge influence over individuals desires and more importantly actions with regards travel. Both positive and negative. I have lost count the amount of times I have been siting chatting with a guest and they mention that their family did not want them to come on this holiday ( due to perceived risk) .

    So in answer to your question , how you increase the pool of travellers? Well on a global scale that is hugely complex as it takes so many different parts of the industry to work together in the same direction it makes my head hurt. However, on a much smaller local scale what I do is put a lot of effort into finding out who the inspiring communicators are within out client base and work with them to reach out to their friends and contacts with the travel message. Each travel business can design systems t do this that suit their business.

     
    • Drew Meyers

      “a much smaller local scale what I do is put a lot of effort into finding out who the inspiring communicators are within out client base and work with them to reach out to their friends and contacts with the travel message”

      Yup, I think that is the best way to spread the message. Find the travel addicts (like me) who truly believe every single person should travel more — and believe that deeply enough to “sell” others that they should.

       
 
 

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