The best sources for trusted travel recommendations tend to be from those who know us best—our friends and family—combined with vetted research and content from select publications and websites. But gathering that information can involve several steps, and potential missteps.
Today, Uptake.com has re-launched its travel-resource site—the company’s new tagline is “Travel like you’ve been there before”—and introduced a new service, Travel Q&A, that aims to harness social networks, targeted user-generated content and travel resources to make the trip-research process easier and help users find the travel information that’s most relevant to their needs.
“We’ve designed the new Uptake to reflect natural travel-planning behavior. When people plan vacations, they pour over travel reviews and sift through star ratings, but ultimately they prefer advice and recommendations from people they trust the most who have been to that destination before,” said Yen Lee, president and co-founder of Uptake.com, and formerly of Yahoo! Travel.
Travel Q&A uses Uptake’s patent-pending “destination mining” technology to access users’ Facebook friends and analyze structured data (such as hometown, current city, college and check-ins) as well as unstructured data (status updates, photos and comments) in order to find individuals who are best suited to provide personalized travel recommendations on designated destinations.
Users can supplement their Travel Q&A answers with information found through two other key elements of the site: Uptake’s large travel library of vacation experiences, with more than 1.8 million destination ideas, hotels, restaurants, activities and attractions culled from 30,000 travel websites, and its significant body of users. Since launching about four years ago, Uptake has become one of the most-visited travel sites, with roughly four million unique visitors each month.
Here’s how the new tool works:
A user posts a question on Uptake, and provided they’ve allowed the site to access their Facebook account, Uptake then lists those friends who have content that match the destination queried about. Users have the option to select all who appear in those results, a designated few, or their entire friend list. Their travel question then posts to their friends’ walls—all through Uptake, without having to switch over to Facebook.
The benefit of using this service and not just posting the question to users’ walls is that it ensures friends see the question, with the added bonus that their friends also can see it and respond. At the same time, the query goes up on Uptake, where anyone can respond.
I tested the new tool by asking for London hotel and restaurant recommendations. Six of my Facebook friends were deemed a match. I know many more have been to London, but the information on Facebook is only as good as what gets posted, and not everyone completes their demographic fields, nor allows their information to be crawled. As a result, friends of mine who currently live in London did not show up as matches, and I couldn’t add them individually to the list of people that I wanted to ask without choosing to post on everyone’s walls.
Nonetheless, by querying just my six matches, I received four responses within a few minutes to two hours—three from my friends, one from someone who had seen the question on Uptake. I received email notices whenever someone responded, and I could easily get to my Travel Q&A page with a link on the right side of the Uptake homepage under Recent Activity. It should be noted, however, that replies from Facebook friends need to be posted using the application link in order for them to appear on the Uptake question page and for the user to receive notification.
Still, it’s great that you can quickly find a targeted group of friends who likely can provide valuable insight about destinations. Despite a few minor glitches—one friend commented that there was a hitch with the Facebook permission screen, and they never received a confirmation that their permissions were received—I have to say that compared to other travel research tools I’ve tried over the past few years (and there have been many—millions of venture-capital dollars have gone into building companies and tools hoping to capture the travel-planning market) Travel Q&A is one of the easiest to use, and it provided quick, relevant responses that I found valuable.
And I’m not just saying that because I work for the company. Those who know me know that I don’t hold back when I think something doesn’t work very well. Plus, those friends who answered my question separately commented that they thought the Travel Q&A tool looked interesting, and that they already recommended it to others. That’s a pretty good response.
Check out the new Travel Q&A for yourself at Uptake.com and let us know what you think.