Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu, Triporati and how to recommend alternatives

I am very much a Swine Flu sceptic. I am not a swine Flu denier - clearly it is a dangerous strain of the flu. Rather I believe that there is too much fear going around compared to the fatality rate. Wikipedia is reporting a suspected 101 fatalities to date. While that is terrible for those impacted, we need to take the number, risks and world response into perspective compared to the numbers that die each year in South East Asia from Malaria and in Southern Africa from HIV/AIDS. Some of the responses have been so wildly out of proportion that they defy belief. For example, serious debates were starting in Sydney last week as to how much food we should stockpiling, doctors were reporting people under the flight path worried that they could be picking up the illness from incoming passengers, in Egypt mass pig slaughters are ensuing. All of which is clearly ridiculous.

Aside from the realities for the flu versus the “pandemic panic”, it is clear that there will be a negative impact on Mexico as a travel destination. The combination of the Pandemic Panic with the Decapitation Dread of the drug war and Kidnapping Kaos from travellers being snatched from beaches has caused mass cancellations for bookings to Mexico. I am reminded of the huge reduction in visitors to Hong Kong and Macau during the dark days of SARS in 2003.

Most of the OTAs have responded by building dedicated pages for customers on the site and support staff within their customer care centres (here is the Orbitz page, here is the Travelocity page). Most are also waiving cancellation fees.

While consumers are rushing to cancel trips, they are also looking for alternatives – which feed very neatly into the recent stories on the BOOT over travel discovery and inspiration. Travel inspiration engine Triporati have built a series of pages around the concept of

When a customer goes to this site they can click on the destination in Mexico they were intending to travel to and Triporati’s pages (fed by people and technology) recommend alternatives – by region. For example the top pick alternatives for Acapulco they recommend Fort Lauderdale, Cartegena Columbia, the British Virgin Islands, Mykonos is Greece, Boracay in the Philippines, Durban Coast in Sth Africa, and good old banana bending Queensland.

I like this idea and see it is a good use of Triporati style content to respond to a traveller need. The challenge will be getting the resulting organic traffic. I see the Triporati site rating at number 4 to “Mexico Alternatives” on Google but not on the first page of “alternatives to mexico” (your Google results may vary). Full Triporati press release here.

gracias Esparta for the photo on Flickr

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