“What do my customers know and how do I help them share that?” – Making Travel Guides Social

January 3, 2008

Earlier today Jeff Jarvis posted about how travel publishers are still struggling to figure out how to use the web to their advantage (from the Times) and the concept of a social airline.  And I quote:

“Airlines should capture the knowledge of their wise-about-traveling crowds. Imagine if, on return trips, the airlines asked us the hotels where we just stayed and ate and invited us to rate and review them. Imagine if they asked natives to share some inside tips on eating and shopping in their towns. They have a currency to pay for the information: They could reward us with frequent-flier bonus miles.”

Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but I would definitely write reviews in exchange for miles, and I’d imagine plenty of others would too.  And who has fresher knowledge than the people who are just leaving a destination?  If leveraged properly, this information could become incredibly valuable to travelers.  Like Jeff Jarvis says, “(t)his should be a basic question of any company or industry in the internet era: ‘What do my customers know and how do I help them share that?’”

What if an airline partnered with a travel publisher to create wiki-versions of their books?  For instance, what if Lonely Planet or Rough Guides used the air travelers’ network to continually refresh their content online, therefore having the most up-to-date information possible?  With the airlines’ incentives behind them, they would probably beat Wikitravel and the popular travel messageboards.  They would probably also have more niche-specific information – from the Times article linked above:

“But new book formats are aiming at niche interests and travelers taking short breaks on low-cost flights. Meanwhile, more guidebook content is being uploaded to the Internet, where it is often available free.”

Also, how could this be applied to other industries?  Many web retailers already offer customer reviews, but perhaps they could offer incentives (gift cards, etc.) for greater participation? 


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