Posted by David Welsh (Online Marketing Specialist, Amadeus UK)
Crowdsourcing may seem like a fairly new concept. But in reality, it has been used as a way of gathering information for decades if not longer. 70 years ago, a documented example of crowdsourcing was conducted by the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED called for contributions from volunteers in an effort to index all of the words in the English language with example quotations and usages. They received a staggering 6 million submissions, which went into creating the dictionary that we know today.
Crowdsourcing is often called the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ since it can be a useful tool in gaining insight on any given subject. It makes sense that collective knowledge from various sources, after being aggregated to form a clear picture of a subject, is more representative and reliable than trusting a single information source. Well that is exactly why Travel has become the breeding ground for some of the most exciting uses of social media in recent years.
There are a whole heap of social media based applications out there in a wide variety of categories for travellers. Take a look at gtrot for example. It offers a simple way to see what is going on in any city in the world, at any time, by using crowd data. Another is forkly, a mobile application that tells you which recommended eateries are located nearby, all discovered by a ‘crowd’ of satisfied diners. Perhaps these could be described as simple ideas, but they become ground-breaking by providing easy access to peer recommendations that travellers actively seek out and tune in to.
A widely adopted tool such as TripAdvisor is also a good example of crowd sourcing. Imagine it is 1999 and you are going to a travel agent to book a hotel for your next summer holiday to Corfu. Before you hand over your hard earned cash, you instruct the travel agent to put you in touch with 250 previous guests of the hotel so you can hear their opinions of the standard of accommodation. What was once a ridiculous notion is now a natural and logical step in the booking process.
With all the innovations facilitated by social media, a key question is how travel professionals should respond to crowdsourcing. What do you think? It is something that travel agents should seek to exploit or does it dilute their position as the kings and queens of travel expertise? Let us know your views in the comments.