I was always interested in what it takes to run Travellers Point a large travel blog platform and what it means when the founders decided to have their team is based in Melbourne not Bangalore or Manila. I took sometime out to interview Peter Daams one of their co-founders on how it started, what insights he had learned running one of the leading online travel guides and some insights into new technology they are building to improve their visitors experiences booking accommodation online.
How did you get started with TravellersPoint? When did it first kick off? What was the first technology you used?
Travellers Point started as a hobby and way of exploring web development. My brother was involved in the travel industry, so he suggested we do something related to that. Our concept was to be a reunion site for travelers. Back in those days, sites like Reunion.com and Classmates.com were a big deal and we figured something like that for travelers could work. It did sort of and we did reunite a few people, but in the end it’s been the other features we added that have really worked the best.
You are very active in the travel community via Travel Massive? How important is meeting and mixing with the travel industry? How is technology changing this?
I love to engage with other locals involved in the travel industry. I feel like a lot of meet ups have sprung up as a follow-on trend to networking sites like Twitter. At some point, the people on these sites wanted to meet their new online friends in real-life. So meet-up groups started to spring up all over the place. It’s really great to occasionally be able to sit down over a beer and discuss some new ideas. There’s some great people in the local online travel industry in Melbourne that are always fun to catch up with.
What is the one travel website/app you think people are not aware of and should be using?
Speaking of Melbourne online travel companies, one of my favorites is Rome 2 Rio. They definitely deserve to be known more widely. You can ask them to show you the best way to get from your house to the Big Ben and they will be able to tell you which flights, trains and buses to catch to make it possible. I don’t know of anyone who comes close to achieving this kind of multi-modal search.
What is the one website/app that you never saw coming and now dominates its vertical?
Instagram really took me by surprise. I was really into it last year for a while and it blew me away how addictive it could be. Just taking photos and waiting for feedback. A very supportive, social network. When I started using it, I really only saw it as a way to put filters on photos and maybe as a better way to upload to Facebook. But after using it, it really clearly was something bigger than that. I’m not sure if it’s just going to end up being a fad, but it certainly has been a fun fad if so 😉
What is the one travel vertical, website, app or platform you think is overhyped?
I think a lot of the social travel inspiration sites are over-hyped. Fundamentally, many of them seem to think that people prefer advice from their friends and haven’t already managed to get that advice from them in an offline setting. Friends, in particular the ones I only know online, are probably the last people I want advice from. I’d much rather get advice from local experts and people with like-interests. My friends on social networks are not necessarily that closely aligned with my own tastes.
One of your core features is the blogging platform, s why is story telling so important to travelers? How has blogging changed over the years?
Blogs are really just a modern form of journaling. Keeping a journal of your trip has always been a great idea and a fantastic thing to look back on years later. Some bloggers want to test their writing skills on the general public while others would rather keep it private. We allow both.
How do you see Google experiments like Google Hotel Finder? Are the doing a good or bad thing for online travel bookings?
Google’s continuous moves into verticals can be a scary thing. I don’t think Google is really best placed to change online accommodation booking for the better, but we’ll see what they come up with. I prefer not to lose sleep over it 🙂
What brought about the “map view” function to your properties page?
Location has always been a primary factor when choosing a place to stay, so we wanted to make it easier. We integrated some of Google Maps’ most useful features to make this easy. You can choose where you want to be near and all properties will be sorted by their distance from this location. Clicking on the properties then shows how far it is to walk to the property from your chosen location and draws the walking route on the map. Or alternatively you can get it to show you driving directions.
How do you deal with all the photos your users upload?
We have had close to 2 million travel photos uploaded to our site. Amazon really made that so much easier when they introduced S3. We’re also not that fussed if bloggers store the photos through our site or not. We allow them to integrate easily with their Flickr accounts if they want to for example.
Your team is active on the social space, what is your take on Google+ and Pinterest?
I don’t really consider Pinterest a social site at all. Despite the fact you can follow people and comment on photos, there’s really very little socializing that I have experienced on there. Google+ on the other hand has been a great way to interact with other people. People shouldn’t compare it to Facebook, because it’s not really the same kind of site. It’s a lot more like Twitter, but without the silly 140 character restrictions. I find myself spending more and more time on G+ and have probably made more interesting connections through there than any of the other networks I’ve been on. But it’s all about what effort you put into it. Facebook for me is more about reconnecting with real-life friends than making new ones. I don’t see that changing.
Peter also spoke about several new exciting features they are working on which you will just have to wait for, but if you want to learn more about Peter and the Travellers Point team, you can them actively engaging on Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.