Check this out: Web 2.0 Begins to Sprout in Travel, from Hospitality Net. (Here's a primer on what Web 2.0 is all about: Basically, it refers to Web sites that let the users collaborate and create online content.) Hospitality and travel sites haven't been too active in this arena, which is understandable, because it means you have to let your customers talk in your public space, and who knows what they might say! While the article points to things like Starwood's redesigned Fourpoints.com site, which now features a search box, it also says, "The jury is still out on the utility of this search-box approach, as how Starwood performs at providing the results returned from what visitors search for, and not simply that it is search enabled, will determine its ultimate success." And TheLobby.com, Starwood's new blog, also is a one-way street at this point. It's nice to share some stories, but as I noted earlier, the fact that they don't let readers provide input via comments kind of relegates this effort to Web 1.0 status, too.
Yahoo's forays into the new Web world are, in my mind, much more on target with what this is all about:
Yeah, baby! Now we're cooking with gas. And TripAdvisor.com is doing some terrific things in this space, despite hoteliers trying to spin the consumer-driven site by posting "glowing reviews" of their own properties. Frankly, if someone posts something not-so-nice about a property I was charged with (including our magazines), I'd want to know what their beef was and what I could do to fix it, not post public relations spin to counter it.
Hey, even GM's executives allow comments on their blog, and even though the Chevy's 'Make Your Own Tahoe Commercial' idea didn't go as planned, it did generate a huge amount of buzz. And, frankly, is anyone shocked by the idea that big SUVs don't get great gas mileage? It's not like people aren't saying that anyway, so why not acknowledge the problem and tell people what you're doing to develop more fuel-efficient SUVs?
Like it or not, people are talking about your product, be it a hotel, an airline, or a meeting, on the Internet. Why on earth wouldn't you want to be a part of the conversation, or perhaps even lead it, listen, and learn?