Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boom for travel sites -- Can they make money?

Cecilia Aronsson | April 22nd, 2008 | Add Comment »

Travel sites are in fashion this spring, with new sites adding at a steady pace. Finnish travel site TripSay is just the latest to emerge, for example, with ways to share tips about travel. It’s still in closed testing, but it plans to open to the public in a few months.

With hundreds of travel sites now existing — ranging from the big ones like Expedia to the small, single-author blogs dedicated to travel — how are they all going to make money?

Well, enter Travel Ad Network, TAN, which wants to help place ads at all these sites. It just raised $15 million from Rho Ventures, Village Ventures and individuals. The money will be used to increase advertising across travel websites. The company says it is serving 50 sites already. This could mean that some of these flavor-of-the-times sites may eventually make some money.

But being a traveler online is not always glamorous. While testing the basic features of TripSay, I was met with: “Cecilia has been to 5 places and is thus described as “Random tourist”. Next level at 10 ratings.”

Huh? It’s early days still for TripSay, so let’s cut it some slack. It works as a social community where as a member, you create and personalize your profile. You’re asked to list places you have been and rate them with a five-point smiley system. The ratings appear as icons on a world map. Only placing a few ratings will result in being dubbed the “Random tourist” — not a very admirable introduction for someone who has traveled the world. If you’re patient, and add a couple of hundred places, you’ll eventually earn a nickname like “Columbus.” However, quality of ratings might suffer if new users feel rushed to fill in information to avoid that initial rude description.
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