Tourism Wikis: The World According to the Crowd
As travelers become more Internet-savvy, they're turning increasingly to travel wikis and online travel communities for the most up-to-date, reliable information available. The appeal of a wiki is that it's constantly updated and provides varying points of view.
It used to be that travelers looking for the hippest getaway, the coziest hotel, or the best restaurant had to rely solely on travel guidebooks, which were often out of date by the time they were published.
The Web, however, has spawned a new destination for those seeking travel information: travel wikis and online communities.
Created by travelers, for travelers, these sites offer travel stories, tips, observations and reviews, as well as networking opportunities for those who share a love of the open road.
All Things Wiki and Wonderful
One of the leading travel wikis is Wikitravel.org. Featuring information on more than 19,000 destinations, in 16 different languages, Wikitravel is a comprehensive wiki devoted to all things travel.
"Based on the belief that the best travel information is gained from other travelers rather than printed guidebooks that are only updated occasionally, Wikitravel is the ideal source for objective, up-to-the-minute travel information about locations around the world contributed by travelers who are currently there or have just been there," Joe Ewaskiw, public relations manager for Internet Brands, which acquired Wikitravel in 2006, told LinuxInsider. "With the explosion in popularity of smartphones and other portable devices, accessing Wikitravel on the go is easier than ever before."
The site has been garnering its fair share of awards, including a 2007 Webby Award for Best Travel Web site. It was also named one of Time Magazine's 50 Best Web sites of 2008.
Like other wikis, Wikitravel relies on its community of contributors to monitor and edit the site for accuracy, and there are community managers who oversee the site as a whole.
"We have community managers that monitor the site, but they really don't have to do a lot of policing because the community takes care of it," Ewaskiw told LinuxInsider.
While Wikitravel focuses on objective, factual, encyclopedic information about travel destinations, another travel site owned by Internet Brands, World66.com, offers opportunities for travelers to post reviews and more subjective observations about the places they go and the things they see.
"World66 is an outlet for travelers to share their opinions on travel destinations. Users contribute personal travel anecdotes, thoughts on accommodations, and share recommended travel routes and must-see sights," Ewaskiw told LinuxInsider. "A five-star rating system provides an instant summary of users' opinions on hotels and restaurants."
I Go, You Go, We All Go
Online, interactive travel communities -- different from wikis in that users cannot edit each other's posts -- are also becoming increasingly popular. Founded in 2000 and a part of Travelocity since 2006, IgoUgo.com is one of these communities where travelers go to learn about more than 8,000 destinations, read stories, see photos, and get to know their fellow travelers. The site currently has more than 500,000 registered members, and 2.5 million unique visitors come to the site each month.
"IgoUgo is an online travel community enabling passionate travelers to share their experiences and plan their trips," Michelle Doucette, IgoUgo's Content Manager, told LinuxInsider. "For eight years, IgoUgo has inspired passionate, opinionated, and truthful reviews from savvy travelers -- in short, our high-quality content is the real deal."
Both armchair travelers and those planning an imminent trip -- and everyone in between -- can find something of interest on IgoUgo.com.
"Even if you land on the site and read just a handful of IgoUgo travel journals or reviews -- or see just a few of the photos in our galleries -- it's hard not to come away inspired to go somewhere or do something," Doucette told LinuxInsider. "This passion for travel, coupled with practical tips and reviews, is why IgoUgo remains such a popular and fun resource for trip planning and sharing."
IgoUgo travelers can journal about their entire trip, including information about itineraries, reviews, photos, other details. And those readers wondering about the veracity of this content can rest assured that the site's editorial team is on the job, weeding out inaccurate, plagiarized, or other problematic information.
"In an online space that can be rife with marketing material, plagiarized content, and general junk reviews, IgoUgo reviews are trustworthy," Doucette told LinuxInsider. "Every piece of content submitted is reviewed and rated by an editorial team to ensure its integrity and to signal to trip planners which reviews are most useful."
Hybrid Travel Sites
Some sites, like Travellerspoint.com combine wiki and online community elements. Founded in 2002 as a place where travelers could track down old friends and travel mates, it has now grown into a more robust travel information site, attracting about 25,000 visitors each day.
"[It has ] become a full-fledged travel community, where travelers from every corner of the globe can share their experiences, photos and advice with other people that love to travel," Eric Daams, one of the founders of Travellerspoint, told LinuxInsider.
In addition to a travel community, where people can post information, observations, photos, and blogs, Travellerspoint also offers a travel wiki, which is a more encyclopedic travel reference for visitors. The site's wiki has a core group of 15 to 25 users who post regularly, and they monitor and edit the wiki's content.
"Because the travel wiki is part of our community, it's easier to find out more about the people writing the information," Daams told LinuxInsider. "In a way, the community provides accountability, so the information is more reliable."
Daams credits the popularity of sites like his to the fact that they offer free, up-to-date, and personal information about travel.
"Online travel guides in general, and wikis in particular, have the potential to be much more up-to-date than guide books," Daams told LinuxInsider. "It's a huge ordeal to update a guidebook; it's a pretty simple affair, on the other hand, to go online, click edit, and update any incorrect information. At their best, wikis are incredible sources of information from people who have been there and done that."