I stay in a lot of hotels. For personal trips, as well as business travel … there are hotels that I visit once or twice and there are hotels that I stay at often enough to recognize several members of the staff. Though I often choose Starwood properties because of location and frequent staying points, I use many different brands of hotels depending on the city and availability. Recently I have been considering starting a travel blog to capture all of these experiences at hotels, as well as my passion for some other elements of the experience such as luggage. I have written before and done a product trial for some Briggs & Riley luggage, and also own some Boyt and Tumi bags. I love to uncover new travel gadgets or tools to make the travel experience better or easier. When I found the card for the travel survey from DHL in my latest issue of BusinessWeek, I went and took the survey. I take a ton of photos of food at restaurants and love food photography. In short, I’m an engaged traveller … exactly the kind that many companies in the travel business would love to reach.
So when I got the chance to beta test a new site dedicated to a new way of rating and finding hotels called VibeAgent, I took them up on the offer. The site is still in beta so some things like the site search and autodiscovery of location during registration were still a bit clunky, but once inside the site it was clear the VibeAgent intends to take on one of the biggest problems with posting online reviews … that people are way more likely to post when they have a negative experience than a positive one because of a lack of incentive to share a good experience. The incentive to share a bad experience is obvious: revenge. I stay at good hotels that I like all the time, and hardly ever review them on a site like TripAdvisor or Yelp. I have accounts to both, but there is no real incentive to write and the process seems like a bit too much work.
For me, the number one incentive to keep track of where I stay is so that I can create an archive of my trips for myself. In part, this was the reason I started blogging … to keep track of great ideas I saw or had that might be lost otherwise. Luckily for me, many of those ideas were useful for others too. Recording this type of information has to be a personal experience. Where VibeAgent is most successful is in how they let you record your experience through quick buttons and collect your stays together:
As I used the site, though, I couldn’t help but wish for a more holistic way of recording my travel experiences. A real online trip diary, so to speak, where I could save all the details of my trip so I could refer back to it anytime. This would NOT be about sharing my travel stories … since I could already do that by creating my own travel blog or adding photos to a Flickr gallery.
Instead, the sole purpose of this online trip diary would be to easily record all my experiences, positive or negative, with set criteria. VibeAgent has a great start on set criteria for hotel stays. Yet, there are five key elements that make up the entire travel experience: transport, hotel, products, food and sights. If someone could create a similar tool for travellers to easily keep track of all these elements, that would be a tool worth paying for. Here is a quick list of features:
- Integration with Google Maps
- Database of hotels, sights and airports to quickly recognize what I want
- Easy rating system for each element
- Ability to link to photos for each, if I have them
- Choose to share ratings or not share and keep private
- Sort ratings together (ie – select hotels, airports and sights to see together)
- Easily printable with easy to read formatting
- Emailable custom pages bringing content elements together
- Travel product reviews with links to online purchasing
If I could choose a site to start on my own, this would be it. I’d call it TripCellar (like a wine cellar – or something like that) and charge people to use it. To make it more Web2.0, I could easily drop the "a" and make it TripCellr.com. If it was really easy to use and offered a unique way to keep track of all your travel experiences, I think it would be a hit. What do you think? Would this work, or would it just be another tool struggling for an audience? Also, if you’re interested in trying out VibeAgent, let me know … I have a few invites left to share.