This past Monday, Expedia hosted Blogger Day 2011 in Seattle which was designed to bring a group of travel bloggers together with a group of key executives from Expedia in order to delve into a range of topics and discuss how some of Expedia’s recent initiatives could be beneficial in tackling some of the bloggers’ own challenges.
After meeting up for an informal lunch, which served as a bit of an ice breaker, the group (of which two lucky Travelllll.com readers and I were a part) traveled to Expedia’s global headquarters for a session with President of Expedia Worldwide Scott Durchslag.
Durchslag began by sharing Expedia’s strategy known as Expedia Everywhere. “My aspiration is nothing short of putting a personalized travel assistant in everybody’s pocket,” he explained. He plans to get there by implementing a five point plan that includes creating a new booking engine, providing an easier and more powerful mobile experience, adding a social layer that gives travelers the tools to share memories and reviews on the spot, innovating a “place market” and introducing a loyalty program that encourages and rewards loyalty.
“The future of travel is Web 3.0 and Web 3.0 is all about the place market and the power of place,” stressed Durchslag. “A place market is the intersection of the destination graph, which is all the knowledge and information about the places people are traveling to and all of the booking information that goes along with that, crossed with a social graph and an interest graph. Bringing those three together describes the boundaries of the place market.”
In closing, Durchslag made a point to add that, “It’s really important to me that customers understand how to get the best travel experience they possibly can. That’s not something I can put in a thirty second TV ad. The beauty of you guys is you have a connection with your readers that allows you to explain things more fully and I think that’s really important in terms of where all this is going.”
Once the session concluded, the travel bloggers broke off into a few smaller groups. Each of these breakaway groups was lead by another key executive and covered topics such as mobile apps and emerging platforms.
The day ended with a trip to a luxury sky box at CenturyLink Field from which the entire group took in a Monday Night Football game that matched the Seattle Seahawks versus the St. Louis Rams. While I must admit that I did not really see much of the game, I had some smashing conversations with a number of very personable and impressive people.
Spencer Spellman, a San Francisco based blogger who runs the site The Traveling Philosopher and works with Expedia explained:
I got the sense from Expedia and bloggers that there wasn’t a feeling of pressure or expectation. It really had the sense of marking the beginning of a long dialogue that Expedia wishes to have with bloggers about how they can effectively work together. It’s no surprise that the travel industry and, especially, major players in the travel industry have been slow on the uptake with things like blogging and social media. Spending the day with bloggers, decision makers, and not just PR people … communicated that bloggers are an integral part of them moving forward. This is forward thinking that isn’t being adopted by a lot of companies, although I think there is a wind of change that is taking place in the travel industry and this is evidence of that.
Chris Gray Faust, editor of the travel blog Chris Around The World, sees it as a “step forward when major travel brands such as Expedia consider bloggers a primary outlet for their message. Time will tell if the company decides to pursue further partnerships or sponsorships, which is where most bloggers hope things are going.”
Overall, the event seemed to be very well received by all who were involved and I believe the writing was clearly on the wall (in big green neon lights). Expedia wants to pursue some fun and innovative ventures with travel bloggers and wants to do so now.
Are you a savvy travel blogger with a cool or innovative idea for how you as a travel blogger could work with Expedia? Leave us a comment and Expedia might just see it.