Travel inspiration and discovery landscape

Best discovery tool for attractions has long been Tripadvisor and to less extent Foursquare and Yelp depending on geographies and languages. All have similar traits — they have ranks based on number of reviews and average ratings. As travel pattern diverges, ranking that inevitably favors most touristy attractions based on number of reviews gets less and less relevant — particularly among travel enthusiasts.

Alternatives are emerging yet there is no clear winner that takes over ranking yet. Instagram has definitely become a place for discovery — it works the best for visually impressive attractions and serendipity. On the other hand, the likes of Culture Trip curate hipster-oriented content that inspires that segment of travelers more than review rankings do with a good success both on social channels as well as SEO. Tripadvisor launched a facebook type feed that’s supposed to work as an inspiration — filled with Culture Trip and travel Youtuber posts — rather an odd combination given Culture Trip and Tripadvisor are going after same source of revenue on the same business model. So far the engagement of the posts on Tripadvisor feed looks subdued.

In China, Mafengwo and Qyer serve as direct replacements of Tripadvisor and content farms combined in Western world as they are moving from travel blog aggregation to in-house content production. Mafengwo’s feed UI has longer history than Tripadvisor’s but it’s hard to assess the level of engagement particularly given the dodgy nature of the company who is accused of counterfeiting reviews to inflate numbers.

Even they get their fair share together with traditional customer review sites, there are still blank spaces in discovery. One of those is inspiration around which city to visit — a role historically covered by local travel agencies. Skyscanner and its API integrators are trying out with cheap airfare triggering impulsive travel purchase for years now with a limited success. We are exploring this opportunity with far more extensive video content including weather, seasonal events and cultural things to do.

Another is discovery and understanding in cultural experiences without paying Airbnb Experiences type of prices. As more and more people pursue unique, personal and deeply cultural experiences out of travel, it makes sense for Airbnb to provide such services — and Airbnb is far better equipped to take on this opportunity with strong community out of core business against hundreds of upcoming online tour booking services that have to focus on opposite end of the spectrum — big tours and venues as to get the size and initial traction going. However unlike Airbnb’s home-sharing which produced a significant consumer surplus by offering competitive price against hotels, Experiences product seems to be fully-priced and bundle knowledge and the experience all together. We aim to democratize knowledge part of it through interactive/educational videos.

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