I recently had an email conversation with NileGuide CEO Josh Steinitz about airlines expanding into the world of destination information. While some airlines have cautiously dipped their toes in the water, it appears that Southwest is jumping all the way with its new Travel Guides. Southwest and I seem to have different views on this idea.
As I said to Josh in one of my emails,
I think it’s a hard sell to get the airlines to [put comprehensive destination information up]. People may plan their air, hotel, and car at similar times, but all the other stuff tends to happen after the plans have been made. I’m not convinced there’s a huge benefit to putting those on the airline site yet.
But let me back up for a second. What exactly did they do?
You could always book hotels and car rentals via Southwest, but now you can do much more to actually learn about the places you’re going. As the site says, “Where to Go & What to Do.” You can figure out where to go by searching by activity or even by “theme” of your trip. Clearly, there’s a Texas bent here since Austin is supposed to be the best place to go boating and Amarillo is the best for fishing and hunting. (Amarillo?!?) But the good news is that much of this info will be populated by users, so that Texas slant should hopefully get washed out . . . if people use it.
So far, however, there aren’t many users. Considering some of the user names I’ve seen have been “swacouple1″ and “christi532″ (Southwest Twitter guru Christi Day), it appears that the internal folks have been mostly populating this so far. But will it gain traction with their customers?
I suppose we’ll find out, but I’m skeptical. Why would I write a review on Southwest.com when if I really wanted to do it, I probably already have a site or two I use for that purpose (TripAdvisor? TravelPost?). Will people really care about restaurants at the time they’re booking their tickets? If not, will they come back to Southwest.com when it’s time for those decisions to be made?
We’ll get to find out soon, but what do you all think? Will you be using this site to post or read reviews on hotels, restaurants, etc? Hit the comments.