Web Design for Travel Sites

Web Design for Travel Sites

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The first thing that comes to mind on hearing "a compelling website" is "a beautifully designed website with hues of colours and images" a piece of art. That is exactly the first thing that came to my mind when I sat down to design the website. A couple of weeks later I was probably more elated than Leonardo Da Vinci would have been after completing his master piece. The website was adjudged 4th in the Asia Pacific region (Region 10) IEEE Web Design Contest 2003 in the first time entrants’ category… that isn’t as bad as it sounds… Almost half a decade later the website is absolutely the same… not due to my artistic brilliance… but because it just didn’t work out… Lessons learnt… The website discussed above is by no means an e-commerce website but the rules of the game (with regards to creation, development and sustenance) with or with out the commerce tag, remains similar.
The most important aspect is the content- a content strategy is an imperative for the click backs… though it is also the most neglected aspect…

the scenario
In a country with our history, heritage, geographical, cultural ethnic diversity it would take a few life times to truly experience the grandeur.
India has always had an immense potential to be a major tourist attraction, yet we rank a meager 140th in the world in terms of “Contribution of Tourism and Travel Economy to GDP” which stands at 5.3% as against a world average of 10.7%.… What lies in between these figures is the enormous potential which we seem to have always known but couldn’t do much about.
An exponential growth in inbound as well as domestic tourism in India has been projected. Different people would have different needs. People with less time for leisure are likely to take more frequent but shorter trips nearer home. The experienced traveller wants authentic, off-the-beaten-track vacations in remote and less well-known places as against luxurious five-star vacations, leading to an interest in rural and ethnic tourism. The increase in the number of people with lots of money but little leisure time has resulted in a growing emphasis on rest and relaxation, and ‘wellness’ and ‘health’ holidays. The demand for eco-tourism and nature based holidays is expected to double and even triple in the next 20 years. Sports and adventure holidays continue to be popular with the young.
But wasn’t this always the case.

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One of the reasons we have not been able to grow much despite the potential is the low utilization of modern marketing and publicity tools along with lack of relevant information.

the idea
The idea is to create a website which provides travelers with all the information in a comprehensive manner- a one stop reliable solution for all the informational requirements. In any web based business model the main idea is to lay down the infrastructure, get the traffic, which would ultimately generate money. Getting the traffic and sustaining the growth of traffic is the actual task, as success would depend on the breadth of content.
The following aspects were thought out while conceptualizing the idea: the current sources of information available to travelers, the stake holders in travel & tourism industry- who could be potential partners, the changing trends – travel & tourism and the emergence of the web 2.0 based portals.
All the people who travel and use the web will search for relevant information for the travel say from actually deciding/finding the place to travel, to options to stay. Currently there are no players online who provide a comprehensive website which provides all the pertinent information, the information currently available on the net is scattered and not very authentic. Maplesstravel.com would provide services to cater to this need, and all the travel enthusiasts and those who use web would form the target audience.
The idea is to use Social networking services and travelers community as the theme with a purpose to offer a platform for the users across the country (and of course around the globe interested in India) to share ideas, experiences, travelogues. The users would be both the creator and the consumer of the content.
Since continues inflow of quality content more so in the initial phases is crucial – contributors, along with the weary backpackers, would also include hand-picked travel experts from around the country.
By providing certain innovative and few regular features such as blogs, travelogues, pictures, videos, discussion forums, friend lists, communities, recommendations, maps marked with all places a user has been to, lists of places a traveller wants to go to- on which any new info would be directly given to the user, along with our content, we would make sure continuity of usage beyond information seeking. The applications and users have of late become more participative and contributing in nature, and that’s what we would be leveraging upon.
Once the number of users reaches a substantial number a number of innovative features could be included such as find a travel buddy.
Mapless.com would differ from the existing players (pure travel sites and communities on social network sites) in the features which would be provided and in the way that the complete information would be integrated and arranged to make a 360 degree view possible, which is missing in the existing sites.

The major cost would be incurred on the development of the website and building and prompting the brand. Brand would have be built by making quick moves, being present everywhere on the Internet, having a strong word of mouth last is adverting. The actual brand promotion strategy would be worked on the actual financials. The development would require the substantial part of the investments.
The revenue model initially would be based on advertisement on the site. This would be extended to a model connecting the other stake holders.

Risk Assessment
As discussed earlier no existing competitor provides the features maplesstravel.com would. But there is a very realistic possibility of them coming up with similar features. As is evident from other similar portals in other spaces- say education- competition can coexist by creating a niche. We expect this space to get very competitive and challenging but that would take some time- time enough for maplesstravel.com to be a formidable player.
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