User-generated content (UGC) is a hot topic, and not just in online travel. Not since the crazy days of the dot-com boom has there been such an explosion of web sites. But this time, there’s a difference: the content is created not by the media or owners of the site, but by Joe Citizen in his various roles of blogger, debater, subject-matter expert and - on occasion - photojournalist.
At this year’s Wired Travel Asia conference, to be held on 25 and 26 October at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore, UGC will be high on the agenda. It promises to trigger some lively debate.
Allowing internet users to contribute to a site rather than just read it may widen the knowledge base and expand the content, but what about issues like credibility and bias? And how can UGC help online travel?
Co-organiser Yeoh Siew Hoon, who also runs her own travel community site, said, “We’ll be discussing how the industry can benefit, or whether it’s simply a case of letting the inmates run the asylum. The hardest thing for any business to do is to let go. By letting Joe Citizen air his opinions, do you lose control or do you gain an advantage?
“We’re seeing some travel companies use social media but the majority remain hesitant. Can they afford to stay on the sidelines or do they engage an increasingly empowered online customer?
“Wired Travel Asia will explore all these questions and more.”
The founders of two well-known online communities will be among a stellar line-up of international and regional speakers. Jim Donnelly, vice president marketing of US-based IgoUgo will talk about his experience in building an online community of travellers sharing reviews and photos, while 26-year-old Briton Mark James of Tribewanted will share his vision of building a tribal community on an unpopulated island in the South Pacific.
The inclusion of Mark James in the programme has created considerable interest. He and fellow entrepreneur Ben Keene are in the process of setting up an ecological community on an island in Fiji by using the internet as a recruitment tool. About 100 people will live on the island at any one time, for periods of one, two or three weeks. Conditions on the island are primitive, with no electricity or running water, yet so far more than 800 “tribesmen” have signed up. The target is 5,000.
Airline distribution will also be in the spotlight, with speakers from Qatar Airways and Tiger Airways talking on business developments in this perennially-important area for airlines. Other topics include building brands in the online world, the implications of new media on marketing, and online distribution trends for hotels and destinations.
WTA, which was attended by over 250 delegates at its launch event last year, has already established itself as one of the region’s top travel technology, distribution and marketing conferences. Supported by all sectors of the industry, WTA is a diary event for anyone interested in the latest trends, issues and opportunities in the fastest-growing sector of the travel industry.
Wired Travel Asia is organised by respected regional communication specialists Yeoh Siew Hoon and Martin Kelly.