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The Starting Point to Real Time Travel Advice: A Location Based Content Delivery Platform

Travel Startup Ideas

This is a guest article from Drew Meyers.

I arrive in a Chiang Mai on a Wednesday morning. Turn on my phone, and am greeted with a push notification, “You have 6 personalized gems waiting…” I click.

  1. I see a promotion for 20% off ZIP lining with Flight of the Gibbon (which is an awesome day trip I went on last year). I book it with one click.
  2. great photo of a pagoda at night.
  3. A tip from a local food junky who lives in Chiang Mai to visit the Mrs Pa’s Smoothies at Chiang Mai gate. Directions are one click away.
  4. A recommendation that Anoma is a great, quiet place to stay once, with superb wifi.
  5. Tomorrow (Thursday) is trivia night at the UN Pub.
  6. Punspace is the co-working spot where geeks work during the day.

Ok, awesome. But I have a question, “where is the best place to get decent American food”? (I wouldn’t ask that given Thai is my favorite food, but I know many would) No problem, there is a prompt to type my question in, knowing I’ll get a response from a trusted human within minutes. Oops, one more question. “Where can I get a haircut near Chiang Mai gate?” Boom, an answer hits my phone a few minutes later, with directions from my hotel one click away and a quick recommendation to take a Songthaew for 20 baht instead of a cab for 100.

All information is personalized, based on my likes, dislikes, and past travel habits. No spam. Everything is vetted and curated. This arrival experience exists for every city in the world.

So, how do we get there? How do we enable a scenario where real time travel advice is streamed to you, in every city in the world?

Floating Asian Lanterns

Obviously, it goes without saying, there is no one single right way to accomplish something. That said, here are my thoughts… Regardless of whether it’s real time or not, delivering personalized travel advice starts with a massive amount of structured content, tagged to specific locations – that a broad range of web services, apps and individuals can utilize. Content would be a mix of video, data, graphics, text, and audio. What type of content are we talking about?

  • Visa requirements per country (per passport)
  • Restaurant reviews
  • Co-working locations & reviews
  • Photos
  • Tour details and dates
  • Event descriptions and dates
  • Historical descriptions
  • City & country reviews
  • Average WiFi speeds
  • Average cost of travel
  • Transit options
  • Audio city tours
  • City videos
  • Hotel descriptions, prices, and reviews
  • Festival reviews and dates

There seem to be three potential approaches to build the needed data set / platform:

1. Scraping – All the data is sitting out there, in a broad range of formats on a vast array of sites. It’s on Yelp. Foursquare. Travel blogs. TripAdvisor. Newspapers. Within paid apps. Within free apps. On Facebook. Twitter. My hunch? The Yelps, Foursquares, and TripAdvisor’s of the world likely wouldn’t appreciate this approach — and would require significant machine learning behind the scenes to segment the data to certain types of travelers.

2. Buy/write/license/curate the data from scratch. This approach would certainly result in the highest data quality. The downside? Of course, the cost and time involved in building a new data set covering the entire globe from scratch would be astronomical.

3. Crowd source it, with an open source solution – Think of all the various entities and individuals that have amazing local content already. Give them a way to deliver that content, structured and tagged in one format to the end traveler, regardless of what service the traveler is using.

On the other side of the coin, think about all the travel startups that are re-creating the wheel in terms of building “destination” pages or search results. Imagine a travel module ecosystem (similar to the way WordPress plugins work), specific to location specific content and applications.

Let anyone with location content create a “module” that displays their content within a standard UI. Want outdoor activities content from REI? Just click a button and add the REI module to your application. Want to see context travel tour descriptions and prices? One click, and voila. Hotels from Starwood? One click away from a basic integration.

Who would use it? Travel startups, for starters. Travel bloggers. Hotel chains. Tour companies. Airlines. Maybe there ends up being a travel specific blogging platform (maybe built on top of Ghost), where location is a critical component of virtually every post.

Of course, the other component of delivering real time advice, is knowing an individual’s travel history and interests in order to deliver the right type of travel advice and recommendations.

Drew is the co-founder of Oh Hey World. Global nomad originating in Seattle. Ex-Zillow community builder. Social Entrepreneur. Microfinance advocate. Travel addict. Find him on Twitter @drewmeyers.

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