WTM – Community is key

Travel firms have been urged to adopt next generation natural searches and embrace community sites and user-generated material.

Search engine marketing firm Spannerworks chief executive Arjo Ghosh told delegates at the Travolution@WTM conference the industry must follow web trends and “move to social networking”.

He claimed people no longer rely on traditional media outlets and instead prefer community-based content such as blogs. Ghosh told delegates search engines have moved away from just searching for text, with results now including blogs, videos and other content.

“Search engines are the editorial of the web,” he said. “They act as the front page of a newspaper. Natural search is misunderstood. We are on a cusp of something much more exciting than just searches to sell widgets.”

Ghosh cited a number of developments in which search engines are starting to tailor search results based on previous visits, with Google leading the way.

“Take that one stage further and searches could be based on a community’s viewing habits,” he added.

Yahoo! has launched Yahoo! Answers where users ask each other questions using its network as the portal.

US site Wink.com allows users to filter searches by deleting irrelevant results, which means future searches will be more relevant.

He urged travel companies to explore how they can maximise their brand in the social networking age.

Ghosh highlighted Starwood Hotels’ reconstruction of its latest hotel Aloft Hotel on 3-D virtual world site Secondlife.com.

Users are able to watch the construction and sit in on design meetings.

Ghosh said the move has bought the brand to a different audience and created great interest in the building of the hotel.

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