So I’ve been researching the current state of social media and mobile marketing in the hotel industry for a series of posts, when I started to relapse into a state I know all too well. My breath was getting shallow, hands clammy, one moment hot, then next cold. The same symptoms I’ve suffered from writing for hotel and travel clients. While I always swear that I’ll quit each time, I again found myself in the grip of an addiction I can never truly shake- Googling travel plans!!! …and It can happen to anyone, even you!
You could be at your office, just working away at your computer, not worried at all. But all it takes is just a few simple words to set it off, sending you spiralling out of control. It could be a co-worker could innocently ask if you have plans for the “Long Weekend” or you check Facebook and see an inflammatory post reading “Cabo in a week!!! Whoo!!” Before you even realize it, you’re Googling for inclusive vacation deals until the janitor turns off the lights.
First I’m browsing a few white papers on the hospitality industry, I blink and find myself hypnotized by Airbnb’s search. Did you know you can search for both “wireless internet” and “tree house” and get results? I start to hyperventilate as I realize I could be in a tree house in Morocco and still work. The problem is what am I actually going to do there and how am I not going to eat all my work time figuring it out. I’m allergic to those expensive, boring tourist tours that just drag out all day, if only I knew someone there to show me around… That’s when I discovered the answer to this problem with Tripping.com.
Long distance connections and travelling is where many see the greatest value in online social networks. What finally convinced me to sign my soul over to Facebook a few years back was tagging along last minute with a few friend’s journey through S. E. Asia. This made keeping up with everyone you meet travelling the area, during and after a true benefit of Facebook. While there are plenty of social travel sites out there now, after a cold shower, I thought I’d focus this energy into sharing the two I’m the most excited about.
Airbnb inc. made headlines yesterday by joining the billion-dollar start-up club after a $112 million round of financing. Airbnb has already gained notoriety in the start-up world, with TechCrunch using the phrase “The Airbnb of ______” to describe other social sharing networks/collaborative consumption start-ups. For those not familiar with Airbnb, it is essentially a vacation rental site, but takes it further. Airbnb uses the concept of peer-to-peer travel and goes way beyond couch surfing. Rental spaces range from beds, rooms, apartments or houses to castles, tree houses, igloos, private islands. There are even have listings for whole villages and a country up for rent. While this all grabs headlines, where Airbnb really stands out from the range of vacation rental sites is its social aspects.
“Airbnb is to space what eBay is to stuff” is how co-founder Brian Chesky describes his company. This sparked interest with investors, not just by the comparison to eBay’s success, but also to its seller and buyer reviews. Airbnb not only lets travellers review the hosts, it lets the hosts review the travellers. With Airbnb, each traveller and host has to introduce and interview each other online before both can agree on the booking. This means, like with a host, a traveller has to keep a good reputation to keep participating in Airbnb’s service. They even let fellow travellers vouch for each other to help build trust and smooth out the introduction stage Airbnb added Facebook connectivity in May, which has created 59 million connections in three months. This feature allows a LinkedIn-style degrees of separation, letting you see hosts and travellers through you FB friends. Now you can message a related FB friend to learn more about your potential host or guest. This all goes to strengthen the vitally important community aspect of Airbnb.
Tripping.com is a new social travel site that is similar in features to Airbnb, but offers a service that can actually compliment Airbnb. Tripping’s features include comparable community and trust building features between hosts and trippers, offering reviews both ways, along with peer reviews. Facebook connectivity also links you with and through your Facebook friends to tripping members. For safety reasons, Tripping asks for extra validation from members through a video Skype call to show their passport and proof of address to match their account info. They also have an emergency hotline for trippers that is currently in beta-testing.
I find when travelling, having a friend or friend-of-friend at your destination is always a great advantage. Having someone who can give you the real tour of a location beats any cookie-cutter guided tour. A personal tour by a local gives you the chance to meet their local friends and gets you into the local culture. This is how you’ll get off the beaten path to see the best local restaurants, bars, clubs and all the little secrets of the area. Of course it’s a challenge to have connections located everywhere you want to go. This is where Tripping.com comes in.
You can either act as a host to your area or a tripper when travelling. What the host does offers their time to show the tripper around and can also offer to have them stay over. There is no charge for this service, what everyone gains is the experience to share their lives and culture. While this sounds cheesy in print, the value you get from travelling and sharing culture is truly priceless, making is a much appreciated gift to receive. It’s also a great feeling to share your home and culture and to learn a different perspective on both from a traveller. Hosting also gives you a connection to the tripper and opening up their local area to you as well. And of course there’s nothing wrong with treating you host with drinks, dinner or gifts for their time, as you would for a foreign friend hosting you.
If you’re an avid traveller or wanting to start dipping your toes in international water, make sure to check these two social travel sites out. And in case you’re still lie awake at night worrying about your online privacy, get over it, it’s the future now, so connect to both through Facebook. Just seeing the lists of hosts you’re connected to that I can contact for an introduction can’t be more appealing. I plan to try out both services in the near future and I will let you all know how much fun I had after! If you’re planning to visit Vancouver, BC, hit me up on tripping.com and I’ll show you the town.
Connect with me on Twitter: @S_Gerard