When Colorado native Travis Katz was working in London in 2006, he and his wife used the city as a jumping off point to explore Europe and beyond.
“We found it incredibly difficult to plan a trip online or with guidebooks,” he says. “It often took days of organizing, and we still ended up feeling like our first visit to a place was more like a scouting trip for the next time we went. There had to be a better way.”
Travis decided to create Gogobot.com, a digital one-stop-shop where he could bring together all of the essential information about a destination. Now, Gogobot.com covers 66,000 destinations and was used by more than 12 million people to plan their trips last year.
It is one thing to decide to build a digital hub for travel information and quite another to determine how to gather all of those details. Paper guidebooks traditionally sent a single writer to a location for a few weeks. A problem with that model is that a writer may know a lot about history but nothing about nightlife. Or, they know about nightlife but know nothing about family or outdoor travel.
While many online sources have a great amount of user generated content, much of that information is of dubious quality and can be thinly disguised advertising (known as shilling in the travel industry).
Gogobot Managing Editor Julia Pond explains that they came up with a unique balance of professional travel writing, verified local insight from correspondents who live in a destination, and user generated content via social media. Julia, who is based in London, is tasked with finding and maintaining relationships with the hundreds of writers and correspondents in locations all around the world.
She says, “Skype is how we run our global team of correspondents from initial interviews through final work checks. Skype allows me to work with hundreds of writers and correspondents from my base in London and to collaborate daily with our main offices in Menlo Park, California.”
With this rich network of correspondents, Gogobot has been able sub-divide its information into targeted categories or “Tribes” including Luxury, Backpackers, Art & Design Lovers, Foodies, Nightlife Lovers, Family Travelers, Business, Green, Spiritual Seekers, Vegetarian, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Students, Wellness and Trendsters.
Julia continues, “When I use Skype to interview hundreds of potential writers, the video call makes the difference in terms of us getting to know each other and learning to trust each other. I also use Skype do interim check-ins with writers to monitor progress. For me, the ability to have a face-to-face conversation across a long distance is what makes so much of this possible.”
With an eye on the future, Travis says, “As the world moves from paper guidebooks to generic websites to mobile devices, our ability to provide each individual with smart and timely travel recommendations increases exponentially. Our goal is to help find the places that are relevant to you, so that every person can travel better.”
Here at Skype, we’re happy to be part of that process.