22 March 2010

Travelport's Travelport Opinions - What The World Needs Now?

Dionne Warwick's 1960s song is probably appropriate in this age of Social Media. But if I can carry on mixing metaphors - we could be looking for love in all the wrong places.

Travelport has been pushing its new social media vehicle "Travelport Opinions (tm)" for some time now and recently started to push it very hard. So I decided as the professor to investigate it further.

I signed up (oh dear just what I need more spam). The tool is quite nice and hats off to Vinivi for the tool. I actually like it. I was quite impressed that there is a large number of users - over 1200 now.

However when I started to dive into the details - a more cynical person than I might have some issues with it.

So lets start with some statistics.

Of the top 15 users (ie off the top page of members) 11 of them are Travelport employees and one is from the platform provider.

Indeed 303 are listed as Travelport employees. A further 25 are listed as Vinivi staffers. Presumably there are others who didn't declare their affiliation.

The point scheme seems to be something of a self fulfilling prophecy as the users clubbing together creates a homogeneous group around the obviously largest single group namely Travelport employees.

Based on my evaluation and reviewing some of the stated reviews - all of the self interest questions immediately bubble up to the top. IE if you thought that Tripadvisor was bad then imagine what TravelOpinions can do with biased reviews. I checked and sure enough there are a few in there. I wont bore you with the details but just look at some English hotels.

So yes the world needs more love but in the Professor's humble opinion it doesn't need another self interest vehicle



David Bulloch said...

Hi Prof,

First off, just to declare my interest, I am one of the Travelport people on the first page you mention. However I think it's overly cynical to note there are so many Travelport personnel on there, how can we push something we know nothing about, it makes sense that we've spent the past few months using it and learning it.

I am a bit concerned about your comment on biased reviews. One important detail on Travelport Opinions, unlike Tripadvisor, is that it is only available for agents to access, i.e. no sneaky hotel marketing people in there posing as travellers. So I'd be really interested in any specific hotels as you've mentioned. Okay, nothing's perfect, but you can't say it'll be worse than the unregulated TA.

I'm also confused what you mean about self interest - Travelport don't own any hotels, so it can't be that. Ultimately, yes it's putting our name our there but that's hardly suprising.

To continue your metaphor - Don't "Walk on by", I worry "You've lost that lovin' feelin'", but be aware "Some Changes Are For Good" and we can help each other as "That's what friends are for" - that's enough Dionne Warwick for me!

David Bulloch

Professor Sabena said...

Thank you David for your comment.

Frankly I did look at the hotel reviews and what little I found tended to be somewhat biased. I also did find a hotelier in there who was touting their own product. Tripadvisor/Expedia doesn't own hotels either yet they really do get a lot of biased reviews and bogus ones can populate the site. They have tried to edit these out with various tools but you don't have the ultimate control IE that only hotels booked via an Expedia company can qualify. So this remains an issue. Vigilance is the answer. Not sure you can give the user community that assurance

While I like the way its done - Travelport does have vested interests. I stand by my original assertion that we don't need another Social Media vehicle sponsored/controlled by someone with a vested interest.

But then I am only one person.