WAYN buoyed by huge growth and new partnerships

WAYN.com, one of the web’s fastest-growing travel communities, has said its strategy of partnering with key ‘lifestyle’ partners such as Virgin and Thomas Cook to provide member benefits is compatible with its creation of a site to share experiences.

The community, which enables members to “log their trips, see who’s where and make new friends” and which combines social interaction with user-generated content and local-based services, has grown from 4 staff to 35.

The website’s backers now include Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com, and Steve Pankhurst, co-founder of Friends Reunited, as well as funding from Esprit Capital Partners.

Membership has grown from 45,000 users in March 2005 to 7 million today, and is increasing by up to 35,000 new members per day, WAYN director Peter Ward told the Travolution Summit this week.

WAYN has recently moved into the campaigning business on the site, launching a ‘Save the Dolphins’ campaign following pressure from members.

“We are now offering news feeds, travel services and an SMS platform for the world’s largest online industry. Online communities provide a large network of distribution for cross-selling opportunities in social computing mixed with travel content,” said Ward.

In the same session, Glen Drury, vice-president Northern Europe for Yahoo!, said we had moved from being a community of ‘watchers’ to one that now ‘publishes and broadcasts online. “We are the ‘We’ in the Web,” he added. “And the Web only serves to magnify he reach of influencers.”

Meanwhile, sites continue to evolve, he said. For example, Flickr had started out as a professional photography site, and had turned into a photo sharing site. “It is even morphing into a news site. After the London bombings, images of the devastation were on Flick within 7 minutes,” he said.

He rejected a suggestion from one questioner that Yahoo!, with its many channels, was less of a social community than other dedicated travel communities.

“Yahoo is about social media and creating a community. We have Yahoo Answers, we have a partnership with TUI, and there are no less than 2100 groups on Yahoo alone which are interested in backpacking. We would say to other sites what we’re heard many times today have mentioned: you really need to think about conversation.”

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