If you looked at afar.com’s web site you’d be impressed. It’s attractive, kinetic and well done.
The company, founded by Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz, stresses that travel is “experiential,” and that travelers have to “get out of their comfort zone.”
That’s their brand message.
They want travel “to delve beneath the surface and meet real people in real places.”
Not an especially original concept.
Then I watched their video on brandchannel, and basically saw the founders doing what any adventure-oriented traveler would do: talking about going to cool, but challenging locations like Goa and India.
We also saw them assembling their magazine, of which afar.com is the digital extension, while having a typical travel discussion.
The site is interesting because visitors get to spin a real globe, watch a plane cross the globe and get to stop it at any place. So I stopped at Turkey and read a few questions:
• Which Istanbul neighborhood is better to stay in: Beyoglu or Sultanahmet? There were 6 answers.
• Another question asked about a reasonably prices hotel/wellness center in Istanbul. There were 17 answers
By and of itself, afar.com is fun, imaginative, but is it anything special?
Hotelmarketing.com says afar.com is part of a new group of start ups it calls the “Shangri-La for targeted trip advice, crowd sourcing experiences and recommendations from the most trusted sources-friends and friends and friends.”
These sites go beyond the first wave of Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) , and the second wave of Kayak-like search sites.
They leverage social media to guide travelers.
Sites like Wanderfly have fun boxes backed by strong visuals and Facebook log ins. The boxes let travelers choose themed or preferential travel like Romance, Beach, Nightlife, Art and so on.
Click the “GO” button an neatly arranged, colorful “personalized” choices come up in an visual information context.
GoGobot, says brandchannel, accesses Facebook and Twitter (doesn’t everyone!) but builds in a recommendation engine that mirrors Netflix (and Amazon) to reflect user inclinations.
I wish all these new travel sites well as they seek differentiation and traction.
But here’s my qustion:
These sites all leverage the power of Facebook, Twitter and related sites. That’s their sine qua non, their reason for being.
But, they’re referred to as examples of how “travel is one of the hottest online verticals for “disintermediation.”
Big word, meaning, cutting out the middleman. Do they mean Twitter and Facebook?
How then are they better than friends and friends of friends dealing with travel questions and recommendations directly with Facebook and Twitter?
Aren’t the sites then actually intermediaries?
Lastly, these sites depend on driving traffic to them.
I wait for equivalent sites that take their genius to the people, to everyone else’s party, and not face the huge marketing challenge to bringing people to theirs.