GoSeeTell Network : interview de Martin Stoll, CEO de GoSeeTell, the first collective intelligence recommender system for the travel space
GoSeeTell Network est une plateforme Travel 2.0 qui permet de créer une communauté touristique mais aussi de fédérer l'intelligence collective de l'ensemble du réseau et des portails qui utilisent cette technologie.
La destination Oregon aux USA est l'un des utilisateurs de cette plateforme de dernière génération.
Martin Stoll, CEO de GoSeeTell : the first collective intelligence recommender system for the travel space nous parle de GoSeetTell Network, de GoSeeOregon, du Travel 2.0 et du travel user-generated-content.
C'est très instructif et l'on compend bien que les étrangers (aux USA, dans les pays nordiques…) ont une belle avance dans l'utilisation de ces nouvelles technologies et de ces outils de création de communautés de voyages.
Martin, can you tell some information about you and the other partner in GoSeeTell Network and GoSeeOregon.com?
GoSeeTell Network was started almost two years ago. We are a small core team but have together over 50 years of experience in the travel industry. For GoSeeTell we did over 300 interviews and focus groups with consumers, suppliers like hotels, attractions, restaurants, corporate travel managers and destination marketing organizations. The goal was too find out how each group would benefit from the changes the Internet was going through at that point (APIs, rise of social networking sites etc.). The result of this research and a lot of programming (and even more testing) is the GoSeeTell Network.
GoSeeOregon is one channel on that network; Travel Oregon (the Destination Marketing Organization for the State of Oregon) is sponsoring the site.
Can you give us some outline about your goals with GoSeeOregon.com community!
The goal of GoSeeOregon is to build a community where visitors, residents and anybody who has in interest in Oregon can connect. We will be able to make recommendations to user and guide them to products that will fit their interests and lifestyles. The input for these recommendations is not coming from an editorial team or Travel Oregon but from other users that interact with the site.
The site will also allow Travel Oregon to learn more about consumers, their interests in Oregon and the opinions consumers have about Oregon. And the site is a great test bed for Travel Oregon as a DMO to learn about user-generated-content.
Through the site we can also identify people who know a lot and are passionate about Oregon. We call these users the "Oregon Evangelists". Travel Oregon will interact with these consumers and ask them e.g. if they want to participate in the Travel Oregon Blog.
Tourism is a people business and a destination experience with personal encounters. Do you think the resident community can leverage a destination thanks a web site and social tools like GoSeeTell Network?
People in Oregon are very passionate about their state, many people have moved here because they like all the outdoor activities you can do here.
There are many people who are very proud of Oregon and who love to share their tips for restaurants, activities etc. What better source of advice can you get than people who live at a destination and share your interests?
Who will use your services? Do you have a target audience?
We hope that people who have in interest in Oregon will use the site to connect with likeminded users and to get personalized recommendations. Of course you can also use GoSeeOregon to get information for any other destination worldwide as the site is embedded into the GoSeeTell Network.
Do you plan to work with the professional as well? Like travel agency, tour operator…or is it only for end customer ?
We decided very early on that we would not participate in transactions meaning we would not build a booking engine or price-comparison tool. There are so many other companies and sites out there that are better at doing this than we are. But we are using our technology platform to build white-label communities for suppliers, e.g. DMOs, airlines or tour operators. These supplies realize that you can achieve much better customer loyalty by offering a community and not just a booking engine or online catalogue.
GoSeeTell Network manages other community sites. How do you leverage the tips and content from these websites of the GoSeeTell Network?
One of the key findings of our research was that for a social networking site to be successful it must have a theme that users are passionate about. So we decided to build not just one portal, but a network of portals for different passions (e.g. golf, scuba diving, gay & lesbian travel etc.). The portals are interlinked and share some information. But each portal also has specific information that is very important for the users of the respective portal but not as important to others. This information is only visible on that individual portal.
This way we can much quicker achieve network effects while still offering very relevant context to the users of the different sites.
The full version of the AlterEgoTrips tool will be released soon. Can you give us some explanations about this tool?
AlterEgoTrips will eventually give you recommendations that are based on your user profile and your ratings for places (like cities, restaurants, hotels etc.). So we will be able to say: "If you like these restaurants in Paris, you should try the following restaurants in Portland, Oregon". It is very similar to the concept Amazon.com has for books and CDs. As a user you do not have to read hundreds of reviews for a city you are interested in. You can just read the ones for products that fit your style of travel and have been written by people who share your interests. You can see the first phase of the tool at work if you are a registered user, have entered some of your interests in your profile and rated some places or cities you have been to. For cities like Portland, Berlin, New York City etc. we currently show each user 5 places they might like. As we get more data-points we will be able to make even better recommendations.
Internet is going faster and we talk now about Web 2.0 and Travel 2.0. What do you think about this evolution in the tourism & hotel market place ? Social media and User Generated Content are the big trends for Travel 2.0 ?
Any travel industry conference that I went to in the last 12 months was only about Web 2.0. So clearly there is a lot of discussion and activities in this area but a lot of it is also just fluff.
I think there are very few areas where UGC will be as important and relevant as travel. You can not test a travel product before you buy it and you can not return it if you do not like it. So learning not only from the supplier but also from other consumers is extremely important. The challenge is that because of the anonymity of the Internet one does not know whom to trust. This is why we developed "Trustiness", an index that shows how much other users trust one specific user.
We see important impact of news technologies (RSS, AJAX, podcast, blog, social-networking tools, Google mashup, Vidéo etc), what is your point of view in the travel area?
We use many of these tools as do most other new travel sites. We have Web 2.0 stuff on our site, e.g. geo-tagged photo streams from Flickr. This way we are able to show users literally millions of photos around the world without having to upload a single photo ourselves.
I think the biggest impact in the years to come will be from combining map tools with video so you can see what it looks like at the place where you want to go. We will roll out geo-tagged photos and videos later this summer.
Canadian Tourism Commission ( www.canada.travel) is working on a very exciting and innovative initiative with Real Travel (a travel social networking web site) that will launch in the next few months. VisitSweden is in process to built a travel online community.
In France, DMO's are looking at travel social network with more and more interest.
Any advises for DMO's and Tourism Board who want to start an online community and work with you!
DMOs are realizing that they have to complement their official message and web-presence with a platform where consumers speak. As a user I can find UGC about a destination anyway so why not offer it as a DMO? The usual reasons against it are what to do with negative comments, how to identify fake reviews etc. But look at the upside: what if you have a platform where consumers can share how much they loved traveling to and exploring a destination? What if you can get visitors to become spokespeople for your destination?
For DMOs and Tourist Boards I have four recommendations that are based on all the market research we did:
1. Find a partner
Building an online community is a tricky business and everybody who does it will go through a steep learning curve (we have been doing this for two years and still new things every day). Try to find a partner, who has the technology and expertise in this field – it will save you a lot of time, money and trouble.
2. Don't be too destination specific
On GoSeeOregon consumers can get information for 90,000 destinations worldwide, not only for Oregon. This might seem strange at first site but it has a good reason. Once you become a member you can use this site to get all your travel information, you do not have to go anywhere else. If the site would only offer Oregon information it would be very difficult to build a long-term relationship with the user. DMOs have to be aware of this problem and find a solution for it.
3. Act now
I am surprised how hesitant DMOs still are to get into social-networking. It is so obvious that consumers want information from other consumers and not only from the DMO. So either you give these consumers what they want or they will find the information somewhere else and you loose the opportunity to interact with them. Every day that you do not offer a tool for people to connect and contribute they will sign-up on other sites and start contributing there. They will build up loyalty to the other site and you will have a tough time to win them over once you have your site up and running.
4. Don't censor
It takes some guts but as a DMO you cannot censor content that is negative about your destination. You will loose all credibility. If you do UGC, do it 100%.
What is your taste for:
It is more about with whom you go and who you meet than where you go.
- Travel destination:
I love Portugal (where I grew up), the Yukon Territory in Canada, Eastern Oregon, Bora Bora and any place where windsurfing is possible.
- Hotel :
I would choose a tent in the wild over an all-inclusive resort. Having said that I would give my tent any day for a small but spectacular resort like the Tu Tu Tun Lodge in Southern Oregon, one of my favorite hotels in the world.
I went from a company with over 90,000 employees to a company with less than 5. That was an interesting learning experience. Working for a start-up you deal with less politics but there is a lot more pressure to get stuff done.
- Any advises for French people who want to go to Oregon on vacation ;-)
Where do I start … I will limit myself to some highlights off the beaten path.
My recommendation would be to come in the fall when the weather is amazing. Start in Portland and drive through the Columbia Gorge to Eastern Oregon. Here you can still see – 150 years later – the tracks the wagons of the first settlers left in the desert ground .
This is the true Wild West. Then you can loop south and stop in Central Oregon where you can do any outdoor activity you can imagine . If you have a little bit more time continue south to Crater Lake National Park . I guarantee you that you will never have seen such a spectacular blue color. Loop back to Portland along the Oregon Coast .
French visitors love Oregon Bounty a 2-month festival of food, wine and the harvest with lots of unique events that takes place in October and November.
- You have the micro
We do not have that many French members yet so I hope many will join www.goseeoregon.com and start sharing their favorite places – in France and the rest of the world.
We would also love to work with French DMOs. If somebody is interested, just send us an email!