When was the last time you called a travel agent? Those of us who love to travel have noticed a shift in the way we research and ultimately purchase our vacations. Over the last few years the reliance on travel agents services has declined and many adventure travel companies can be found in our favourite spots online - TripAdvisor, YouTube, Facebook and the like. Of course there are many fantastic travel agents that have proven their worth and you can even find them in these same places online. Rising alongside these professional, indespensible travel agents is a new industry beyond the faceless sites of Expedia and Hotwire: Businesses like ZipSetGo.com that are developed by personalities who love travel and love to help others craft the best possible vacation.
I chatted with one of ZipSetGo's founders, Rachel Wolery last week about these new travel resources and what we would be missing out on if we didn't tap into them.
JC: Rachel, ZipSetGo is unique place on line where travellers can go to research destinations around the world. What inspired the Go Girls to create the site and who are the contributors?
RW: April, Sara Beth and I all work in the travel industry, traveling the world, and going to the best hotels, restaurants, and participating in the latest activities. We wanted an outlet to share what we learned from around the globe with fellow travel addicts and professionals – and Zipsetgo.com was born! We are a virtual sounding board for the travel community and our ultimate goal is to become the foremost travel authority using social media to connect our audiences globally.
JC: I’ve been spending quite a bit of time watching twitter over the last few months and have recently seen the hashtag #TNI come up again and again (and again and again!). Can you tell me a little bit about TNI and what motivated you and your colleagues to create it?
RW: #TNI, Travelers Night In, is a tweet-up we organize every Thursday. Since we can’t always be traveling, we thought we would connect with other travelers to see what is the latest and greatest in the travel industry. Each week we pick a different theme, come up with engaging questions, and find hosts that are experts on the particular topic. Hundreds of travelers from around the globe meet up and chat, share stories and travel tips – something very unique that would not be possible without twitter. We have received tons of great feedback about #TNI – about what people are learning or how #TNI has connected them with people around the globe. There definitely is a sense of community.
JC: What sort of topics do you cover on TNI and who are the experts that chime in with responses?
RW: We have covered a wide range of topics, everything from Adventure Travel, “Green” Travel, Budget Travel to the Worst of Travel. Everyone on twitter with a passion for travel is encouraged to jump in! Hosts who are experts on the particular theme lead the conversation and share their distinctive insight. @Gadling has been a great supporter of #TNI. We have also had experts from @traveldudes, to editors of Frommer’s and Lonely Planet.
Recently, #TNI has drawn in national sponsors, which have added a new layer of fun and excitement to the weekly chat. Participants have won everything from airline gift certificates, cases of soda - to trips to Cancun, truly making Thursday nights something to look forward to each week.
JC: There is undoubtedly an evolution in the way people research and purchase their travel experiences. ZipSetGo.com & #TNI are clear examples of this. For our guests looking to travel to off-the-beaten path destinations with an active/ adventure element to it, what would they be missing out on if they didn’t join in the conversation?
RW: The great thing about twitter, and the internet in general, is that information is so current – its what’s happening now. People are reporting about what is happening that moment, from around the globe – so it really is the latest, most up to date information you can get your hands on. Another great thing about twitter is the great diversity of people, everyone can join #TNI, so you might get a great tip about traveling with kids from a mom of 4, and then hear about the newest hotel from the editor of USAToday Travel. Even more, #TNI builds relationships. It’s not just a place to brag about all your passport stamps. It’s a place to connect with other traveler’s and swap best practices. So no matter where you think you want to go – someone participating in #TNI has insider information because they have been there, and done that. We are excited about how viral it has become. We growing by 10% weekly, on average, with new people joining the #TNI family. Our followers chat about #TNI throughout the week and include the hashtag when something important is happening in the travel community.
JC: What is the biggest lesson you and the Go Girls have learned since launching ZipSetGo?
RW: We have learned about the power of Social Media. It has been a perfect platform to connect with like-minded travelers from around the globe, which is exactly what we set out to do. It hasn’t been easy and the learning has been fast and furious.
Through the ZipSetGo facebook page, blogs, and twitter accounts (@GoApril, @GoSaraBeth, @ZipSetRachel and @ZipSetGo), these social media outlets let site visitors provide us with suggestions and feedback that we can take and implement to make the site and #TNI even better and more useful to our audience. For example, we found that many visitors were families or individuals who wanted travel advice, and the best deals on travel for them, so we added a booking engine to the site. Now visitors can research destinations, restaurants, and activities, and book travel all at once.
Are you a travel addict? If so, follow #TNI and CMH online. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Smugmug. And watch for us on #TNI! Join the conversation -we'd love to hear from you.