For many travel startups, the Holy Grail is to create a platform that offers social media functionality and manages to entice users away from Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. The established social networks remain the dominant players in the online travel space, but could 2014 be the year that the social media travel startups take over? In this post I examine five upcoming platforms that may change the way we book holidays, seek travel advice and leave online reviews.
Tint is a Facebook app which aims to help users create travel experiences with a local feel. By connecting travellers with "friends of friends" around the world, Tint lets users contact locals for travel tips, meet them for a drink or even arrange to stay at their homes. It also allows travellers to contact other users that aren't already in their social network.
Analysis: In almost one year, Tint has already gained over 55,000 members. Its integration with Facebook removes some of the uncertainty of meeting strangers online, and its visual representation of where your connections are around the world is a really useful feature for spotting link-up opportunities. All that remains is to see whether Tint can build up a large enough following to be a success.
Jauntful is a website that enables users to create customisable maps of their favourite cities around the world. Input your chosen city, preferred points of interest and descriptions of these places and Jauntful will automatically plot them onto a printable map for you. The map can then be shared with other Jauntful users, with friends only, or emailed to a specific individual.
Analysis: Jauntful is currently still in preview mode but could become a useful resource in the online travel space. Its personalised travel maps would be great for bloggers seeking to show their readers what to see and do in an area and Airbnb hosts wishing to provide guests with a printed guide to their local neighbourhood.
Triptease is a travel review site that enables users to create beautifully formatted write-ups of places they've been. Users can upload a photo and concise write-up of a hotel, restaurant or bar and let Triptease format it to look like a page from Travel + Leisure magazine. What differentiates Triptease from, say, Tripadvisor is that the reviews are very much connected to a real person and do more to promote the destination than a typical online review.
Analysis: Because the majority of reviews on Triptease are positive, the platform should be considered more a source of travel inspiration rather than of impartial travel advice. That being said, it could easily become a popular resource for travellers planning their next trip. After all, the average Triptease review is something that the hotel or restaurant featured would be happy to share via their social channels, resulting in free widespread distribution for Triptease.
CarryOn offers a unique way of booking flights and hotels that taps into social media and the wisdom of the crowd. Users can follow an existing deal on the website or create one of their own – for example, several nights in an Amsterdam hotel or a flight from New York to Hawaii. As more people follow a deal, it "tilts", giving users discounts of up to 40%. CarryOn currently partners with travel brands including Hilton, Wyndham Resorts, American Airlines and United Airlines.
Analysis: The idea behind CarryOn, to inject some fun into the online booking process, is an innovative one, and admirable since the process can all too often be a laborious and time-consuming affair. However, as with many other travel startups, CarryOn could do with a larger user base for it to become a feasible alternative to conventional booking.
HotelClub Explorer is an iPad app that aggregates travel content from across the social web, including Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and Tripadvisor. Users can search for a combination of destination plus activity (such as "beaches in Sydney" or "shopping in Singapore") and the app will find relevant photos, tweets, videos and reviews. This content is then compiled into a personalised travel magazine, which is optimised for iPad. HotelClub Explorer is the result of research from HotelClub.com, which shows that people are more likely to rely on the opinions of others via social media than any other source of travel information.
Analysis: With so many social media travel sites on the web, perhaps what is needed is a content aggregator such as this, which can curate the best of what's already available. HotelClub Explorer performs fairly well, incorporating great usability and an innovative idea. However, it could be improved in terms of the quality and relevancy of the results returned.
As you can see, there have been some interesting developments in the social media travel space in 2013/14. What do you think? What travel startups have you got your eye on?