Last night I gave my final presentation in a class entitled “Launching New Ventures,” expanding on a travel idea that consolidates travel itineraries into an online database. The idea driving Ripe Travel is that many of my friends in graduate school create vacation planning documents, often in Excel, that contain extensive details on everything from flights to hotels and transportation options. These documents too often end up sitting on their computer, or sometimes mailed around to others who are planning to travel to the same destination. It is easy for all of that leg work to go be lost in the depths of computer folders, and for future travelers to go it alone in their own planning.
Knowing that this is not something that happens only at Columbia, I want to create an online database for all of these travel documents. A place where itinerary creators can go to share their experiences, and others to benefit from the knowledge of real and proven plans. While it’s still in the pre-beta stages, I’m excited to see what Ripe Travel can become.
In talking to potential future customers (a la Lean Startup, a class I took with Steve Blank last year), many said they often used TripAdvisor because they are seeking user reviews, but that it still was not an easy site to use; one ends up sifting through too many pages, the top recommendations are not relevant, or the reviewer profiles are too dissimilar to their own. In perhaps a bid to overtake TripAdvisor, this morning Amazon Local launched their revamped travel site, Amazon Destinations. While it is too early to tell if Amazon Destinations can compete with the over 200 million reviews on TripAdvisor, Amazon’s existing review system, and the data and algorithms behind it, is probably causing some concern within the veteran site. And though there are other hotel booking and review sites - Hotels.com, Trivago, Expedia, etc. - Amazon Destinations is a focused customer proposition. Very localized, the site targets destinations within driving distance from major metropolitan areas, for overnight or long weekend stays. Amazon is taking an iteration on a previous business model, and avoiding offering everything at once. Yet I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before a much greater expansion of the product is announced. I only recently signed up for Amazon Prime (I know, very late to the game), but as my free time to travel dwindles when I rejoin the real world post-graduation, this new Amazon offering will be greatly appealing. I’ll become the loyal Amazon customer their data is likely already predicting.