The Online Travel Marketing Paradox

There is a problem with every online travel resource out there today – and no one seems to realize it.  Over the past decade, online travel resources have been reinventing how people in the US are planning, booking and organizing their trips – all while the role of travel agents has been redefined and in some cases, made obsolete.  Yet with all these hyperconnected saavy travellers seeking the best deals online and reading every review about a destination or hotel before visiting … there is a gap for one particular type of traveller.  Online flight booking services and travel aggregators that search multiple sites are great for finding the best deals.  TripAdvisor is perfect for comparing one hotel to another and reading (mostly) real reviews of hotels before choosing one.  But what about the travellers who have not picked a destination?  More importantly, what about those travellers who haven’t yet decided where they want to go?

All of us, at some point in our lives fit into this travel category.  We have vacation coming up, we know we want to go to Central America, for example, but don’t have the exact destination in mind.  For us, Travelocity, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Expedia or Kayak are of minimal use.  Sure we could read lots of reviews of places or use some new tools like TripAdvisors placewikis to learn about a place.  But who really bases a decision on where to go on that?  For most, it’s a combination of knowing about a place, finding a good deal, and reading reviews from others all in a single location.  Right now, assuming I am ready to plan a trip to Central America in April and want the best deal, how would I do it? Pretty much starting at Google, I might follow sites that come up, visit websites from online tourism bureaus, talk to friends and family I know who have been to the region, and even take the old school approach of going to a bookstore or library to flip through some books and look at pictures.  This is one of the few situations in my life where there isn’t an online research solution that can help me.  what if there were a site that helped you to compare destinations not just in terms of attractions, but also in terms of costs for airfares and hotels within a specific timeframe.  A site like that, which doesn’t base its interface on the assumption that a traveler already knows where he or she is going would carve a new niche in the crowded online travel space.  I personally can’t wait to see a site like that …