Transforming the way we travel, from content to community

I’ve been planning my Winter paradise getaway these pasts weeks, researching my destinations, making lists, saving countless links to blog posts and travel guides. While doing my digital marketing publications round-up this morning, I came across this article by The Drum about The Travel Project, this couple of ex BTL agency guys traveling around Asia using Instagram only. How can they use only Instagram? You cannot search Instagram for travel tips! How will they know the 10 essential travel items to take with them? Or what’s the best way to go from X to Y? Or how much they should expect to pay for a cab ride from the airport? Instagram is great for finding inspiration, but it’s not a good tool to find organized, sorted, indexed content. “They certainly were not in the planning department”, my husband pointed out. Like me, he meant. They probably weren’t.

Maybe my husband is right and you can travel through Asia without researching everything in advance. What The Travel Project seems to be doing is taking a community-led approach to travel, leveraging the power of the Instagram community: promoting conversation, asking questions, giving back.

The premise of The Travel Project is that we allow the Insta community to fully guide our trip so we could argue that it has pretty much influenced everything we’ve done in some way or other.

Transforming the way we travel is one of the most important changes technology has brought to our lives. It has made the consumer independent from the research to the purchase phase, helping them make informed decisions without paying anyone for their help – at least not with their credit cards. It’s challenging for brands to find their role in this new scenario where consumers don’t need them.

But there are some companies that are doing a great job at finding their place, in some cases a totally new one. Like Airbnb’s role as enabler of community connection. As The Drums points out and Wired covered in 2015, travel lovebrand Airbnb partnered with philosopher Alain de Botton in the “The New Art of Travel” project – a re-edition of his book “The Art of Travel” that is very aligned with Airbnb’s values:

In addition to the destination, once we have arrived Alain urges us to retain some of the curiosity that helped get us there in the first place. He urges us to find our own way rather than getting lost among the guidebooks and bobbing throngs of fellow tourists. He suggests that we stop gawking at museums and monuments. That we start rediscovering our instinctive desire to form genuine human connections and to experience a place real and unspoiled. And to experience culture in its truest sense, we must immerse ourselves amongst real people.

I was not surprised when, in late 2016, Airbnb acquired Barcelona start-up Trip4Real. The company, which allowed travelers to book unique activities created by local experts, was a perfect addition to their community-led approach to travel. Creating content is relatively easy (it can be made with just money and the right strategy), but building communities requires a people-first approach that is hard to commit to – unless of course the community is your main source of income, but that’s another topic and we’re talking strategy here, not necessarily business.

I’ll get back to planning now. ?

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