Monday, March 9, 2009

travel inspiration - seeing, watching or reading?

Last week I wrote about the importance of navigation and search in helping travellers find ideas and inspiration for their next trip.  Here, I want to talk about the importance of layout and media in inspiring & converting a product view to a desire to purchase.

Yesterday we visited the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition and it really gave me the travel bug.  In analysing what made me want to visit all these places, I concluded it was the stunning photos paired with simple well presented text descriptions that allowed me to quickly dive in and visualise myself travelling wherever the subject of the photo was.

My hypothesis is that photos and simple text create the need state.  Further information, such as long descriptions & iteneraries help convert the need state to a purchase.  So what about other media formats.

Video as a tool for travel inspiration.
I know some people really like video as a format for travel inspiration, but sometimes I find it can be too personal to the presenter.  It is almost like the presenter (and camera crew) is intruding on my imagination and somehow taking the romance out of the (potential) trip.  I think this is a very personal viewpoint (I never did like the rough guide TV series) so would love to hear other people's thoughts?  Is video more of a conversion or inspiration tool?  Incidentally, we did think about having video's on Tourdust and although it didn't make the cut it is still in the pipeline and something I would like to do.  A really great example of using video to drive inspiration and purchase is  In this context I can really see the value.  

Travel Writing (journalism) as a tool for travel inspiration.
I asked myself the other day, have I ever been inspired to do something after reading an article in the thousands of travel supplements I have read over the years? and the answer is surprisingly, no!  Yet it is still one of first sections I read in the weekend newspapers.  I think the main issue here, for me at least, is timeliness.  What are the odds that I will read about something in the paper that interests me when I am in that short window of trip planning?  Taking that aside I do think that quality written editorial content can work to wet your appetite and build sub-consious demand for activities or destinations that is not converted until later on when you are in the purchase window.  Likewise, the ability to search archives online and the multitude of specialist blogs is a huge resource for the traveller.

What about social media for travel inspiration?
We are now seriously considering promoting our tour operator's blogs and twitter streams against their experience listing on Tourdust.  We believe that the passion and personality of a small operator is probably their biggest selling point and what better tool to do that?  Imagine you are looking at Keith's skiing holiday on his farm in Austria and read his latest tweet (

Have a great route planned for today, a new pub and a black run
 from web

enjoying coffee and cake, a traditional Austrian past time
 from web  

This timely and instant insight into Keith's life out in Austria might just be the thing to help you really visualise the holiday and get inspired to want to go.

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on what media they prefer as consumers.  I'll go first, personally I think big, striking and raw imagery (not too polished) is the key, alongside short punchy descriptions that are personally written and carry across the personality of the experience.


Adam said...

Great post. I work in audio and video, but i think when it comes to 'travel inspiration' photos are the best.
And I think you nail it on the head-saying it leaves enough to your own imagination without anyone else intruding.
Whenever I want to remember past travels what's the first thing I head to? My photo album. Also flicking through my passport is fun too!

Ben Colclough said...

@Adam. thanks for input. passport is good to - good way to buff the old travel ego :-). Now just need to find a way to show it to people so it doesn't look like I am bragging! :-)

james said...

Hi Ben,

Yep, great post. Photos or images (art work, sketches) etc are definitley the way in for me and most people I talk to. The continued success of the DK visual guides suggests the market agrees.

We all have an extraordinarily short attention spans on the web until we get hooked and commit some time to researching something. Text takes time. Video takes time. Photos or images are the quickest way to capture attention and imagination.

I own about 5000 books and have spent a serious chunk of my life studying/teaching or writing the things but even for a book obsessive it's clear that times have changed.

Your analysis, for me, is correct.

John Williams said...

@james. Totally agree about the DK guides.
I would also add that video is also influential in the form of documentaries, film locations and even world news. As for travel programmes, they must come very close to the bottom of my list when it comes to travel inspiration.

Ben Colclough said...

@ James, agreed watching a video online requires a change of gear from my normal online attention span. Has to be very compelling although I am getting more and more used to it.

@John, spot on. Stephen Fry's US trip or Top Gear's Vietnam road trip is far more inspirational for travel than the Holiday program or Rough Guide series ever will be.

Ralph Foulds said...

I'd say photos, definitely.
When I'm browsing online, looking into travelling somewhere (independently), I want to get ideas, and a hint of what I'm going to find. I don't want to be shown it all on a comprehensive video before I go - I want to see and discover things for myself.

Ben Colclough said...

from twitter @niltiac: I like clever, well put-together videos less than three minutes long. I'll only play them when I'm in video mode.

Cathy said...

Nice post Ben and thanks for the mention!

As our site is video based,you can guess what I think the end quality wins out. Well produced, informative video can be inspiring but equally so are fantastic images and well crafted copy.

Its challenging to hold people's attention with video - especially as on the web much of the content is still re-hashed tourist board footage, dull hotel showarounds or UG wobblycam. Get it right though and its a very powerful tool.

Video can really bring a product or place to life in a way that stills or text never could. Our style is all about showing the reality of the experience and wherever possible engaging with other holidaymakers and locals.

Its not 'armchair travel' but more about giving enough information to allow the viewer to judge for themselves if the reality meets their expectations.

'Made for broadband' video content is still in its infancy but the quality will improve. I think in a few years time, people will come to expect creative, quality video as standard.