Sorry, We Are Not In Right Now


Thanks for checking out our blog, we really appreciate it.

However, our blog has moved to

Sorry that you have to visit another site to find us, but it is worth it...we have all of our 'classic' posts and comments on the new blog, plus a ton of new thoughts and ideas.

Why are we moving? Basically, Blogger failed us and never responded to our emails and requests. A clear example of poor customer service...too bad, we liked Blogger.

Come over and see us on the new blog.

Troy and Mo

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Group 1

Let the battle begin.

Group 1
1. Maine
2. Minnesota
3. California
4. District of Columbia

Voting is available at and open until Saturday.

More on the Great Travel Site Showdown is available at the Travel 2.0 blog.

Remember to tell us why you voted in the comments section.

The Great Travel Site Showdown

As a member of the travel industry, I am constantly looking at what my peers and counterparts throughout the country are doing. And quite often, co-workers and constituents ask me who has the best website.

I have some standard answers (none of which will be divulged here), but that got me thinking...we should really have a vote to see which website would come out on top. If only we had a blog to run it on...

So, over the next several weeks, the Travel 2.0 blog will be hosting the first annual 'Great Travel Site Showdown' pitting the best travel sites around the nation, plus our friends from D.C. and Puerto Rico, against each other in a winner-take all contest! (Prizes to be determined later, but pride and boasting rights are included!)


Ala March Madness, the states are pooled into groups of 4 (13 in all, randomly generated by, with one winner emerging from each group. Those winners, plus the next 3 highest second-place finishers* will move onto the quarter-finals, etc, etc. until we can declare a winner.

Voting will take place on the Travel 2.0 blog (see the top of the page) each Tuesday and Friday, with voting open for 5 days.

Judging Guidelines

Voters should take into consideration the design, ease of use, available travel information and technology used in the site when making their decision. Or, if you want to suck up to your boss, just vote over and over for your state!

Link To / Email

For your emailing / linking convenience, send the link below to your office, friends, cousins, etc. to ensure total domination over your smaller rivals:

Groups / Schedule

Group 1
Tuesday, April 1
1. Maine
2. Minnesota - Group Winner
3. California
4. District of Columbia

Group 2
Friday, April 4
5. Oregon
6. Washington
7. Alaska
8. Virginia

Group 3
Tuesday, April 8
9. Hawaii
10. Alabama
11. New Jersey
12. North Dakota

Group 4 (Group of Death)
Friday, April 11
13. Tennessee
14. Florida
15. Delaware
16. Maryland

Group 5
Tuesday, April 15
17. Pennsylvania
18. Mississippi
19. Iowa
20. Puerto Rico

Group 6
Friday, April 18
21. Vermont
22. South Carolina
23. Georgia
24. Michigan

Group 7
Tuesday, April 22
25. Utah
26. Oklahoma
27. Kentucky
28. Montana

Group 8
Friday, April 25
29. Indiana
30. Arkansas
31. Kansas
32. Ohio

Group 9
Tuesday, April 29
33. North Carolina
34. Nebraska
35. New York
36. New Mexico

Group 10
Friday, May 2
37. Rhode Island
38. Wisconsin
39. Missouri
40. South Dakota

Group 11
Tuesday, May 6
41. Arizona
42. Idaho
43. Nevada
44. West Virginia

Group 12
Friday, May 9
45. Louisiana
46. Connecticut
47. Wyoming
48. Texas

Group 13
Tuesday, May 13
49. Massachusetts
50. New Hampshire
51. Illinois
52. Colorado

Good luck all!

*By only selecting 1 second place finisher we would have ended up with a mathematically challenging 14 states in the second round, and then 7 in the quarters. So, but taking the next 3 highest finishers the tourney will advance to 16, then 8, 4, etc.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How Netflix Made Me Smile

Have you made your customers smile lately?

A few weeks ago, I told you about an e-mail snafu at Travel Oregon that resulted in us issuing a tongue-in-cheek "mea culpa" that resulted in phenomenal "love" from our consumers. This week, I was on the receiving end of such an e-mail that reinforced my love for Netflix.

Thoughts:// I was pleasantly surprised when I found this e-mail from Netflix last week. Turns out a shipping error on Monday caused a slight delay in the shipment of our next movie ("The Wind the Shakes the Barley") by two days. Granted, my wife and I are movie fanatics and we did notice the slight delay; but we shrugged it off and chalked it up to some Netflix algorithm that's gently holding back our que.

But as the e-mail mentions, it turns out it was just a "shipping system" outage. Netflix could have definitely let it slip by in the hopes that we wouldn't notice; but the fact that they not only issued a personal apology in addition to a small discount on our next bill is just astounding.

In an age when many big brands simply call a "website" or a rote "monthly e-newsletter" interactive marketing, Netflix's approach is remarkably refreshing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Travel Trends - Deltalina, YouTube, Michigan, Wealthy Consumers

Deltalina - From now on, all Delta flights are smokin'. (Zing!)

That oh so cute line from the Atlanta Journal Constitution is in reference to the increasing publicity that Delta and more specifically, Katherine Lee (
Delta + Angelina (Jolie) = Deltalina...which was thankfully not coined by yours truly) is receiving from the mainstream media and YouTube. Our friends over at Under the Wing premiered the new in-flight video on the blog February 20th via YouTube. The new in-flight video was probably not the most interesting video on paper, but communicating this new video (or any new or 'exclusive' content) to a loyal group of users via a blog is an ideal way to build consumer trust and loyalty (and having Katherine in the video does not hurt). Plus, posting the video on YouTube extends the reach of the spot beyond the blog...7 comments on the Delta blog, 624 on YouTube. Not to mention over 400,000 views and national media coverage.

Which brings us to an interesting point, how does Delta measure all of that coverage?

There are several ways to address that question...number of comments, views, time spent, traditional media coverage, etc. But I would be interested to know if Delta is looking at this viral campaign as a way to sell seats or as another piece in building the new Delta brand.

YouTube Launches Insight - Google has introduced a free YouTube tool that will provide those who post clips -- whether they are semiprofessionals or media conglomerates -- with deeper insights into when, where and how often their videos are viewed. Using YouTube Insight, publishers can analyze the viewing patterns of individual videos far more thoroughly than in the past, when only total views and users ratings were available. For example, with the new tool, any content producer who posts videos on YouTube can examine which days of the week or hours of the day traffic spikes; which U.S. states account for the most viewing streams; and how long particular clips remain popular.

Michigan Rolls Out New Design - The team up in Michigan has launched a new design for The new look is clean and uncluttered, plus easy to read. The large image in the background is a nice touch, and one that we have seen in a couple other state-level sites. However, the biggest change is breaking away from the Michigan Economic Development Corp's website. No need to tell travelers about the great tax breaks for opening a diner in Lansing...just get them to the state first.

Wealthy Consumers - Some good stats from the Center for Media Research on Wealthy Consumers and social networking sites:

According to The Luxury Institute's latest WealthSurvey, the participation of wealthy online consumers in social networks dramatically increased to 60% in 2008, from 27% in 2007. Participation levels of online wealthy consumers in leading social networks are 16% for MySpace, 13% for LinkedIn, and 11% for Facebook.

A national sample of 805 wealthy American consumers, with an average income of $287K and average net worth of $2.1 million, was surveyed online. According to the report:

- The wealthy average membership in 2.8 social networks, with an average of 110 connections.

- They are intolerant of opt-out techniques, with 65% saying that having their personal data given out without permission would cause them to disconnect; 63% have an interest in "do not track" lists.

Too Much TripAdvisor

Jim Brody, our rep at TripAdvisor, passed along this email earlier in the week. Apparently it is making the rounds at TripAdvisor HQ not because it is negative, but actually because TripAdvisor has sent our friend Bob too much business.

Behold the power of the internet. And specifically, user-generated content / reviews.

From: "Bob Wombacher, Jr."


Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 1:26:21 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern

Subject: A different kind of problem...

My name is Bob Wombacher and I am the owner of a small motel - Bashful Bob's Motel - in Page, AZ 86040. A few weeks ago you printed some glowing reviews and comments about my business. Shortly after, we began getting phone calls and inquiries and reservation requests from people, mostly French, who wanted to patronize our establishment. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement.

To date we have received nearly 400 requests for information or to apply for reservations. Unfortunately we are not equipped to handle such volume. We have a small business and, while we are happy for the help you have given us, we need to "turn off the spigot," so to speak.

The e-mails and phone calls your help has given us have resulted in over 600 reservation/nights, spread out over the next 7 months.

Is there a way to stop your reports, at least temporarily? Any suggestions you can make will be helpful in solving this problem.

You certainly do have great coverage in France.


Bob Wombacher

Bashful Bob's Motel
P.O. Box 2990
Page, AZ 86040

Monday, March 24, 2008

State of the Industry Conversations

After starting the Travel 2.0 group on LinkedIn (741 members, thank you very much), several peers asked how we could further the conversion and discussion beyond the networking opportunities of LinkedIn.

We gave it some thought, and decided the best way to approach this was to start a simple Q&A or conversations series that would live on the Travel 2.0 blog and on LinkedIn Answers.

We choose the Q&A format since it is quick and easy (for the travel executive on the go!), but also provides a wide variety of opinions and perspectives.

So, for all of those in the LinkedIn group, you will be receiving an email inviting you to participate in the series. And for all of those readers of Travel 2.0, you can simply comment below.

State of the Industry Conversations
Bringing the Travel Industry together…one question at a time


Considering current privacy laws and regulations, as well as the New York State Assembly's recent proposed legislation on limiting internet data collection (specifically in response to contextual and behavioral targeting), from a travel industry perspective, how do you see online advertising evolving over the next 1 – 3 years?

Are you looking to create a larger conversation with your audience via non-traditional advertising solutions such as content integration or blogs? How do search and mobile advertising factor into those plans?


Post your answer in the comments field below or via the Answers section of LinkedIn.

Note: You do not have to be a member of Blogger to post a comment to the Travel 2.0 blog. Anonymous comments are allowed, however we would appreciate if you signed the comment with your name.

Hopefully this new feature will be beneficial to everyone involved.

If you have a topic suggestion, please send it along.

Now You Can Take Us Seriously

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Laura Bly from the USA Today to contribute to her recent story, 'Blogs start a dialog between travelers, those serving them' (See next post). Needless to say I was quite humbled to speak with Laura, the idea behind the blog was simply to inform and provide insight to our peers...let alone become some sort of an expert.

We spoke at length about blogs, challenges in consumer relationship building, the recent Southwest news, the difficulty in starting a blog and why more tourism agencies don't have them.

To which, Laura pulled my singular quote from the piece:

But official forays into the blogosphere remain scarce — with good reason, says Troy Thompson of the Arizona Office of Tourism and the blog Travel 2.0. "We talk about all these new technologies, but maintaining a blog takes a good chunk of time," he says. "And you have to be open and honest … a lot of people haven't gotten past the idea that there can be negative comments."

Those experienced readers know that Mo and I would have said a lot more than that quote, but alas, you can only fit so many words into a printed piece. Which is also why our concise blog name, Travel 2.0: Interactive Trend Report, was left on the cutting room floor.

I will have to request that ahead of time for the next interview.

Responding to Negative News Via Your Blog

...Southwest Airlines discovered that this month when its 2-year-old Nuts About Southwest blog fielded some 300 public comments about a proposed $10.2 million fine by the Federal Aviation Administration and accusations that the airline flew at least 46 planes without required fuselage inspections. >>Full Story

Thoughts// As many of you know, Southwest Airlines has been facing some tough scrutiny over the past several weeks due to reports of fines and missed inspections. These are very serious allegations that pose a huge challenge for any corporation and it's public relations staff. On top of that, the airline, in it's fun loving way, also promotes a popular blog about all things Southwest.

What has been extremely interesting over the past few weeks is to observe how Southwest has used the blog during this story and what the user / reader reaction been.

For example, take a look at the post titled 'Southwest Airlines Continues Internal Audit' and the 88 comments that follow.

I would expect Southwest to respond with the tone (via posts) that they have used so far. This is a serious issue and for numerous reasons (let alone legal ones) you cannot have just anyone writing about the incidents on the blog. However, that 'corporate' tone just does not fit on a blog, so the posts do stand out a bit...and to some readers seem like 'spin' or a 'cover-up.'

As far as the comments, about what you would expect...half of the readers are irate, half would still rather fly Southwest than any other airline (count me in the latter half, seriously $25 for a second bag?).

Fortunately for Southwest, they have built up a sizable amount of consumer trust and goodwill which should see them through this negative news cycle.

And keep posting away to start rebuilding that lost consumer confidence.

And the Winner Is...

Innovation has long been the harbinger of progress. Innovators have touched every facet of our lives, from electricity to penicillin to the microchip. Innovators are those who bring the future to the present via their dreams and willingness to take the risks that others often eschew. TIA honors innovation, via the TravelCom Innovator Award.

Thoughts// Last week I had the honor of being part of the 2008 TravelCom Innovator Award Selection Committee. The Travel Industry Association's Innovator Award recognizes "those special companies whose outstanding innovations in the areas of technology, e-commerce and distribution have transformed their business and had a broad impact across the travel industry".

On Thursday—between catching the March Madness action and a bottomless cup of coffee—I spent most of the day reviewing and "grading" this year's submissions.

This year, the committee received nominations from 33 up-and-coming and established technology/travel companies with a wide variety of product or service offerings including the more esoteric "back end" technology products such as Simpleview CRM (formerly CVBTV) and Amadeus. The nominees also included more "consumer facing" services such as Larry the Travel Guy from Air New Zealand and Where2 GPS navigation from Avis. It's also quite noteworthy that several of the nominees were featured on the Interactive Trend Report over the past year. They included:

  • Yapta: Allows users to bookmark airline fares, tag and share them with others
  • The popular meta airfare search engine
  • Tripit: Organizes all of your itineraries, schedules and travel plans (no matter where they were booked) into one, easy-to-read page
  • Travelocity Experience Finder: Allows consumers to plan their trip to destinations based on experiences and themes
  • Orbitz Traveler Update: Airport info hub that combines data from FAA, TSA, traffic reports, parking updates, taxi lines, flight delays, weather information and fellow traveler updates.

So who won?'d have to wait until this year's TravelCom Conference to find out. Let's see if I am better at picking the winners here as opposed to hoops brackets!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You've Got Video

Well, I've got video.

We talk a lot on the Travel 2.0 blog about other sites, ads, trends and technologies throughout the travel industry, but never too much about ourselves (Arizona Office of Tourism and Travel Oregon). I mean, how much more can you take? Well, now it is your turn to critique some of our work.

One of our (my co-worker Johnny and I) major projects at AOT for the past few months has been creating a rich library of video about the Grand Canyon State for our consumers. Luckily, our relationship with Arizona Highways Television provides us with a wealth of footage from around the state. After partnering with Arizona Highways Television, we looked for a robust, yet easy to use and manage video hosting solution.

We looked at using YouTube or Google Video (same thing, I know) as a solution, but alas I want too much control for YouTube. Plus, I don't like that little YouTube logo on my videos. After some research we settled on the Brightcove Platform.

When looking for a video platform, we were looking for several key functions...usability, integration, ease of use, customization, flexibility and control. And so far the Brightcove system has been easy to implement and manage. Plus, it comes with all of the standard viral to friend, link, embed, etc.

I invite all of the Travel 2.0 readers to take a look at the new section:

Please note the section is still in the development stages, so we are still tweaking a few things as well as adding addition videos. Eventually, we will be offering several hundred short clips about attractions and experiences in the state.

In addition to this centralized location, the videos will be integrated throughout within related sections, cities and attractions.

The new video section has certainly been a lot of work, but I am excited to present this new offering to our consumers. I really believe this level of video will enhance there visit to and increase actual visitation to the state.

As Mo and I have talked about ad nauseum, engaging your consumer is key in this new 'Web 2.0' world. For the Arizona Office of Tourism, taking advantage of our partnerships to introduce this level of video is just one of the ways we are increasing engagement among our visitors.

I will continue this post once we start seeing some numbers on viewership and engagement, but for now take a look and let me know what you think.

Oh, and if anyone is looking at developing a video site, I would be happy to share my experience and thoughts.

One Night Only!

Warning, shameless plug.

A few weeks ago, Mo was good enough to invite me to participate on a panel about web analytics at the upcoming Oregon Governor's Conference on Tourism. And I was more than happy to accept. Those folks in Oregon need to listen to me more.

So, if you are going to be in the Portland area April 6-8, stop by and say hello. Or, even better, sign up and attend the Oregon Governor's Conference on Tourism. Mo and I are speaking on the 7th, with the always charming Paul Wille from opus:creative.


Palace Hotel Ballroom, I mean, Red Lion Hotel on the River

Sunday, April 6 to Tuesday, April 8


Analyze this…Analyze That! A Conversation on the Maddening Science of Online Analytics

See you in Portland.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How To Kill A Friday:

Ah, Fridays. Need to kill some time between now and 4:30? Who are you kidding, we both know you are leaving early. Then click on over to That's right, an entire site dedicated to reviewing, showing and discussing the best and worst of in-flight food.

Personally, I am fascinated by sites like this, but clearly there is a passion for it. There are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of photos detailing both the sumptuous (Lobster medallions from Emirates, above) and scarce (cranapple juice / peanuts from U.S. Airways, below) offerings from our friends in the skies.

Out of sheer curiosity, you should take a minute and relive those in-flight meals. Just be warned that you probably will loose track of time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Travel Trends - Nokia, Tennessee, Google Maps

Nokia Urbanista Diaries -Nokia introduces it's new Nseries N82 multimedia computer (in convenient cell phone size) via a great blog / map / widget / camera phone mashup titled the Urbanista Diaries. The idea is pretty simple, send 4 bloggers around the world in 14 days and record their every move, photo and story via the Nokia. You can view the travels via the site or widget. In addition, Nokia teamed with some other companies, namely Lonely Planet and National Geographic, armed them with the smartphone and recorded every move. Obviously, not everyone is planning on watching these urbanistas 24/7, even still, I can't help but think there is a good fit (somehow) for the tourism industry with an idea like this.

Howdy, Tennessee! - The team over at Tennessee Department of Tourism has revamped the homepage of to squeeze even more of Dolly Parton into your browser! Seriously, this is one of my favorite state-level sites, although there is a lot going on within the site. The site is beautiful to look at, very rich and detailed...but I wonder if it overwhelms some travelers. Quite a contrast from the California site we talked about a few weeks ago. The new design widens the page and cleans up the navigation to make it more legible and easy to find. Take a look y'all! (Since I am from the south, I am qualified to use the word 'y'all' in this post)

Google Maps - So, when searching for your house on Google Maps, did you notice it was out of place? Or perhaps your dry cleaner was in the wrong building. Well, the guys and gals over at Google Maps thought you should be able to do something about it. Earlier this week, Google Maps opened itself up to user edits. Meaning the wisdom of crowds will now be helping to create and refine the map. TechCrunch summarized it best, think of this new offering as what Wikipedia did for the encyclopedia...Google Maps will now do the same for maps.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Last April, Reebok kicked off its "Run easy" campaign, using print, out-of-home, TV and online to promote the shoemaker as the everyman alternative to the catering of hard-core athletes by rivals like Nike. Three months later, the traditional elements of the campaign wrapped up -- except, a community site Reebok agency Carat set up for the push. There, runners kept coming back to share routes and post messages. Nine months later, they're still coming -- even from places like Australia, where Reebok never ran ads. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Running ain't so lonely anymore...especially with a social network such as and a community of users telling you where to run anywhere in the world. This interesting story from AdWeek really proves the point that if you build something truly compelling and useful for consumers, they will keep coming back to it long after the marketing campaign and buzz is over.

The article we've linked to is really about how "promotional efforts can take on a longer shelf life" in this fractured digital environment; after checking out the site, I had no doubt about why this was so popular. While the site is a bit rough around the edges (mysterious time outs, multiple prompts to log in etc.), I was really impressed and drawn in by the rich user experience of that lends itself to a very intuitive and engaging community site experience. The site allows a user to:

  1. Find a running trail/route by zip/city
  2. See who's recommending the run (Yes, this needs more relevant info content - marathon runner, casual runner etc.)
  3. Integration with third party API's such as iTunes, Flickr (and yes, Google Maps) that allows users to share their photos and music

If you're ever in Portland, come run with me in the Montavilla Neighborhood!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Travel Trends: Tracking You, Engagement Mapping & Click Thrus

The Web is Watching You: The NY Times reported recently on a new analysis of online consumer data thats shows that large Web companies (i.e Google, AOL, MySpace, Microsoft & Yahoo) are learning more about people than ever from what they search for and do on the Internet. The analysis conducted by comScore analyzed consumer touch-points on these networks (searches, purchases, etc.) and then looked at how many times this consumer data was sent back to the servers. Not surprisingly, Yahoo came out with the most data collection points in a month on its sites; about 110 billion collections, or 811 for the average user; on the other side of the spectrum, publishers such as Condé Nast only recorded 34 data collection events for the average site visitor.

Engagement Mapping: Digital marketers everywhere rejoice! Seems like Microsoft wants to try and take a stab at figuring out how to put a value and measure online advertising. Microsoft recently announced the launch of "Engagement Mapping", a new approach to "managing and measuring the effectiveness of online campaigns". The tool attempts to give advertisers a holistic view of how to plan a campaign online and tries to convey of how the sum total of a consumers' exposure to your brand—be it display, rich media or search, seen multiple times on multiple sites and across many channels—can influence the desired result of the campaign. "Engagement" as we've written many times on this blog is obviously the ultimate metric for digital media; Microsoft's intentions are of course far from egalitarian given their recent acquisition of aQuantive, the digital marketing/ad serving network. Nevertheless this will be interesting experiment to watch. For another viewpoint on this topic, check out this article from Seeking Alpha.

Please Stop Asking About Click Rates! If you've ever been in one of those meetings where someone is always focused on the proverbial "click rate" this is a great read! The writer laments about our obsessive love for the "click thru rate." My favorite line from the article has to be this one:

In the offline world, how many times have you seen someone hop into a taxi cab as a result of seeing an ad on the cab, and ask to be driven to the store featured in that ad? This is the functional equivalent of tracking click-through rates — and if you look at it in those terms, it sounds a little silly.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

All Content Is Dead

Content, it seems, is no longer king. User experience is high on the agenda as ‘lookers’ seek more a compelling offering. “I spent 40 minutes online trying to book a trip to White Plains, New York, with United Airlines. But the site kept telling me an upgrade wasn’t available. It shouldn’t be as difficult as this to book a flight.”

“I’ve spent four hours researching a single trip to Germany, and I still don’t know if I’ve got the best deal.”

A couple of not-so frequent flyers, you might think, who are not used to booking travel online, and have yet to cut their teeth on travel websites. Actually, no. These two quotes are from Henry Harteveldt, vice-president and principal analyst for travel at Forrester Research, and Joe Buhler, senior destination marketing analyst at PhoCusWright, two of the world’s leading analysts of the online travel market. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Okay, so that headline is just for dramatic effect. As a follow-up to yesterday's article (User-Generated Content Is Dead), our friends at Travolution posted a quick comment highlighting the article above, 'User experience - Time for the personal touch.' A great follow-up and a very well written article...thank you David...that we wanted to call attention to.

While I am the first to say that content is key, especially unique, engaging content, there does come a point where 10, 20 or 100 websites will have the same content as yours. And guess what, that probably already happened.

For example, how many ways can you creatively say that your flight to Milwaukee is $172? Or that the Washington Monument is 555ft tall?

The way you begin to differentiate yourself from the competition is user experience. And a combination of user experience, engagement and content will set your site apart.

Enough of my comments, I would highly recommend reading the article.

Long live the user experience!

(Editor's Note: Special guest appearance by the 'Burger King' made possible by your local Burger King restaurant.)

Random Thoughts: Teamwork

Interactive / new media departments, in any major company, typically work with and fit into several departments within that organization. Instead of being just a silo, the interactive team (not to mention marketing, advertising, sales, research, etc.) has to work closely with several groups to maximize its contribution. So, teamwork is key.

On my way home yesterday, NPR was interviewing one of the top officials in the U.S. Army (cannot remember exactly who) about the news that Admiral William Fallon was resigning his post. To paraphrase, the guest said:

I want to have people who disagree with me (us). What good is it to have a room full of people who agree with what you are saying...that is just a room of bobble heads. Healthy disagreement is what makes good decisions.

Now, I would not exactly call the U.S. Army the case study for a great work environment...I don't expect them to be in the 'top 100 places to work' anytime soon...however, the point about disagreement struck me. He went on to say that the Army, unlike the public sector, does not fire employees simply because they disagree with the boss. True or not, a provoking thought.

How many times have you been in a meeting where everyone agreed with the decision because they were either too afraid to speak up, or just wanted to get out of the meeting. Healthy disagreement (rather than just arguing for arguments sake) can be a good thing for an organization and it's employees.

Next time you are in a meeting, be confident in disagreeing with what is said.

Now, go tell your boss you disagree with them.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

User-Generated Content Is Dead

The proliferation of user-generated opinions on various Web sites is increasingly being challenged.

“In short, the expert is back,” writes Newsweek.

“People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information," said Charlotte Beal, a consumer strategist for the Minneapolis-based research firm Iconoculture. She adds that choice fatigue and fear of bad advice are creating a "perfect storm of demand for expert information." >>Full Story

Thoughts// This type of story is the reason why I started the Travel 2.0 blog. The headline, from travel news site Travel Mole reads 'Tourists saying ‘no’ to user-generated opinions.' The 'story' goes on to quote the original Newsweek article that discusses the growing popularity of 'expert' sites. And, if you were just to read the headline and some of the article, you might think that the entire UGC trend is collapsing around us...which is not the case.

The article on Travel Mole does cite a few references of these new expert sites (, Mahalo and, however none of them have very much relevance to the travel industry, let alone that headline. The article goes on to say pretty much nothing and probably leaves most readers even more confused about UGC than they were in the first place.

Typically, I am not this direct in an opinion, I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but it is this kind of lethargic journalism that is partially responsible for the out-of-control UGC buzz in the first place. And now you are telling me it is over?

Not so fast. No facts, no evidence, no proof that TripAdvisor has seen a X% of decline in travel reviews. Unless you have some evidence, don't make blanket statements that scare most VPs and CEOs into running down to the interactive department and ask them what happened.

Just stop it.

Now, about that Newsweek article. It is fair, but not great. True, there has been some significant growth in the 'expert' advice area with sites such as, but that should not come at a surprise. Everything in the online world (if not the entire world) is cyclical...constantly moving back and forth...too many vague, random opinions on which can-opener works the best, let's get some experts in here to tell us the truth.

And it should also come as no surprise that the founder of Mahalo thinks the site is a great idea. I would hope so.

Let's show a little restraint here.

Personally, I have been asking the question for a while if consumer interest in UGC will decline (see our comments from October on Will Human Laziness Burst The Web 2.0 Bubble?) . However, I think we can agree that UGC is not going away. Consumers know the power of their opinion. There is some balancing that will occur between 'amateur UGC' and 'expert UGC', but either way, user-generated content is here to stay.

So, how does a DMO fit into this puzzle? Who better to be an expert on your city, state, country, etc. than you?

Now, how do you start communicating with those consumers using UGC?

That is the real question.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ah, Social Networking

Mo and I wanted to pass along a quick thank you to everyone who has joined the Travel 2.0 group over at LinkedIn. Since starting the group on February 4th, a little over a month ago, we have 526 group members and we are adding about 25 a day.

The response has been overwhelming and at the same time, very encouraging. Clearly the need for a peer group within the travel industry on this ever changing subject is there, and we are very happy to help facilitate it.

Over the next few weeks we will be setting up some additional resources for the group, so those who want to discuss and learn more about these subjects can rely on the collective intelligence and experience of the group.

Speaking of which, take a look at a fraction of the experience within the group:

  • Product Manager at Delta Air Lines
  • New Media Manager at Peter Greenberg Worldwide
  • Travel Industry Consultant and Senior Marketing/eCommerce Executive
  • Alliance Manager at Air France
  • Travel Editor at NBC Universal
  • Founder & CEO, RealTravel Inc
  • COO at Travel Ad Network
  • Manager Digital Advertising at Qatar Airways
  • VP Business Develpment / Group RCI - Wyndham Worldwide
  • CEO & Managing Partner, TourismROI LLC
  • Former President, Travelocity Business
  • VP Marketing, TripHub Inc.
  • Corporate Strategy, Northwest Airlines
  • Online Marketing Manager at Washington County Visitors Association
  • Director: Travel Category Yahoo Inc.
  • Webmaster/eCommerce Manager at Alitalia
  • Managing Editor, MSN Travel
  • Sr. Manager, Online Marketing at RC
  • Manager, Direct Sales & Marketing at Singapore Airlines
Again, thanks to all who have joined. If you have any suggestions on the group, subject matter or ways to communicate and collaborate, please let us know via the comments section.

For those of you not involved, visit LinkedIn to join the Travel 2.0 group.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Travel Trends - Zicasso, Four Points, Google Search

Zicasso - Add one more travel site to your online planning schedule. Zicasso, the online travel planning site that lets travel agents compete for your business (think, officially came out of beta on Monday. As you can see by a simple Google search, there is quite a bit of buzz about this new site. While we will not go into a full review of the site (take a look at the Google search results for additional reviews), this new offering is certainly a different angle on booking travel online. Personally, I like the idea, but it will be interesting to see if this takes off or simply moves to the end of a very long list.

Four Points - While browsing for hotels in Tucson a few weeks ago, I came across a very different execution for a hotel homepage. Plus, the team at Travolution acknowledged the site as well at PhoCusWright@ITB 08. Considering the typical look of a hotel / resort homepage, I initially thought this page was a mistake. However, as you can see on the site, Four Points simply directs the user immediately to the search function. No upsell, no affinity program to push, no came to this site because you wanted to find a hotel, so here you are. Good stuff.

Google Search - This past week Google rolled out a little experiment it has been tinkering with, search boxes within search results. Take a look at it if you search for 'amazon' in Google. Notice that is the top result and within that result is the option to search within the site for more information on TVs, books, DVDs, etc. The additional boxes show up when 'we (Google) detect a high probability that a user wants more refined search results within a specific site.' Which means, like most things with Google, you cannot control it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Travel Trends - Mexico, Internet by State, Virgin Charter, Bloggers

Viva Mexico! And Pacifico! - A good map-based creative execution from Pacifico Beer. The site allows visitors to click on the little yellow bottle caps to explore the site, which consists of videos, photos and plenty of good-looking people having fun with a Pacifico! In all seriousness, even though this is a beer-related site, the use of the map, video and design elements could translate very well into a tourism site. Giving away beer to tourists...a sure fire way to increase visitation!

U.S. Internet Usage by State - Some good stats courtesy of eMarketer. Turns out that the most internet users, at least in terms of total households per state, are in some of the smaller states such as New Hampshire and Alaska.

Virgin Charter - Virgin Charter, the online charter jet booking service from do-everything Sir Richard Branson, has recently launched for public use. The site allows you to book charter jet service online and fill those 'empty legs' that most private jets fly.

Bloggers Are Better Than You - We just could not resist this story from TechCrunch. A new study has found Bloggers are better adjusted and live healthier, happier social lives. The research, from Swinburne University of Technology found that “people felt they had better social support and friendship networks than those who did not blog” after a two month blogging period when compared to people who do not blog. The good news also extends to users of social networking sites, with the study finding than any online interaction makes users “feel less anxious, depressed and stressed.” I feel better already. How about you Mo?

Case Study: Launches...Again?

Okay, so maybe not a Case Study in the traditional sense, but let's take a moment to look at the brief history of

Thoughts// On Monday, Melissa from our Research team at AOT forwarded me this press release about California launching a new website ( my first thought was, 'didn't they just launch that site?' Turns out they did, about a year ago in fact, and if you had been visiting the site every so often you might have noticed some small changes which could shed some light on this most recent update.

So, let's take a look at the 'old' site:

A pretty nice looking site and, if I remember right, there was a good amount of conversation about the layout and design of this site. This is, or was, the whole homepage. The design kept the page 'above the fold' and very compact. Visually it is a very easy to read design. However, having being involved with another compact design choice, I did wonder how the consumers and constituents would react to such a minimal homepage.

When creating a minimal homepage, there are two big challenges (out of many) that come up...navigation and the desire to have everything on the homepage.

With such few choices on where to click, users must understand your navigation structure immediately in order to locate the content they are looking for. In's case, the navigation at the top only provided one or two words of copy and no drop-down menus. For visitors who may not be familiar with the state, that could be a lot to ask.

Another big challenge is what content goes on the homepage. Ah, the homepage. Everyone in your organization wants everything there, all the time...but, make sure it is appealing and user-friendly. Okay, so a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. With such a small homepage footprint, I would assume that keeping certain content off the homepage required a strong internal policy or earplugs for the webmaster.

The 'old' site, version 1.1:

Here we have version 1.1, as I will refer to it. Notice the white bar in the middle of the page...the one with the surfer image...that is a new element. Too small to read in this execution, but the text basically says there is a lot to do in California and has links to destinations, activities, events, etc. In theory, the only reason to add more links to a certain area of site, especially a broad one such as this, is because consumers are having a hard time finding it. Again, just an assumption on my part, but I feel pretty confident this was one of the reasons.

And now the new site, version 2.0:

As you can see the new site is visually similar. Colors, photos, structure, the white boxes all remain, however the size of the page, content on the homepage and the navigation have all been updated. I liked the boxy-feel on version 1.0/1.1, however with the expanded content on the homepage, the boxes begin to feel a bit cluttered, with too much information for this simple, effective design.

In version 1.1 a user only had to scan 5 boxes, which is just about right for the average person...easy to read and understand the content that is presented in those 5 areas. In version 2.0, we have 9 boxes to read, which requires more than a quick glance. Plus, the boxes are not as clearly defined. Interesting what a large difference those additional 4 areas create.

Finally, the navigation certainly provides more information, which should be a plus.

As with any of our case studies, this is certainly just one point of view. I am sure the CT&TC did a large amount of research when making these changes to ensure that the new site is beneficial for the consumer. And FYI, I am trying to contact my counterpart in Sacramento for some more insight as well as a look at the process that went into these design changes.

That being said, this is a fascinating example of website design and a good case study for anyone evaluating the effectiveness of their own website.

The Experience of Flying...

Most travel sites, like Expedia and Kayak, do a good job of digging up the cheapest airfare for a given route, often giving you dozens of options. But when it comes to key factors that can help determine whether a flight is worth the money or is one to avoid — like how much legroom you get, a flight’s on-time performance and mishandled luggage rates — travel sites tend to fall short. Enter InsideTrip! >>Full Story

Thoughts// Few things in life are as commoditized as airfare prices. Like many of you, I've often spent hours juggling between the Travelocity, Orbitz, Kayak and Expedia just to try and shave a few dollars here and there. A new site that's currently in beta, InsideTrip, attempts to ease the pain of travel booking and give consumers a bit more than just "cheap fares".

Taking such "pain points" such as the amount of legroom in a cabin, how often the flight is on time, the aircraft type (larger jets get higher ratings), how crowded a specific flight typically is, how far you have to walk/run to your connection and even security checkpoint times, it adds context to the price and recommends the flying experience of each option. These "pain points" are summarized in three categories: 'Speed', 'Comfort and 'Ease' and the scores are summarized by an overall score that's prominently displayed at the top right. Most importantly, consumers can pick the factors that are most important to them.

Taking information from multiple data providers and displaying them in a user friendly and intuitive interface can be tricky and I am impressed by how InsideTrip blends the experience of flying along with the traditional price information. It was rather amusing however that test my flights (round trips from Portland to Chicago and Portland to Tucson) both ended up with the lowest priced flights being ranked for the best experience!

Authors Note: The site is still in beta and I experienced considerable downtimes and slow connections when attempting to write this. The site currently does not allow bookings but when launched will allow bookings via Orbitz.