If, like most people, you turn to friends and family to recommend places to go and things to do, then consider this fresh batch of travel tools.
Several new sites and apps such as Trippy, Gogobot, Afar, Gtrot and Flymuch promise to help you plan the perfect trip by tapping into Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and friends or expert sources on other online networks you already trust.
Each product offers its own twist — for example, added editorial content or local coupons and deals — but all are based on information-gathering that goes beyond the crowdsourcing model of sites like TripAdvisor.com and relies instead on friendsourcing, or tapping into advice from your network of friends, as the model.
“When crowdsourcing sites first came out, they were pretty revolutionary,” said Travis Katz, CEO and co-founder of Gogobot.com. “They offered a way for people to get opinions and advice from regular, everyday people, as opposed to an editor. But then the problem was there was too much information. You had to read through a lot of information to figure out what matched your need.”
While much of that content can be helpful, much of it is anonymous. So it can also be untrustworthy. “People have a huge incentive to create fake content that promotes their own business or criticizes a competitor,” said J.R. Johnson, CEO and Founder of Trippy.com. “In a friend-sourced model, your only incentive is to help your friend have an amazing experience in a location you are familiar with and passionate about.”
“For aspirational products, this makes perfect sense. Anything you do for fun is fun to talk about and you like to share great experiences,” said Carroll Rheem, director of research at PhoCusWright Inc., a travel industry research provider. But when it comes to travel, Rheem finds the blend of social networks and crowdsourcing an especially good fit.
“Because travel is so expensive and experiential,” said Rheem. “And because there’s a lot of information gathering and weighing and making decisions, and a need for relevant content.”
But while travel-themed, friendsourcing sites are proliferating, Rheem doesn’t see them replacing the larger, established crowdsourcing sites anytime soon.
“The average person takes one or two trips a year. So unless you happen to have friends who are extremely well-traveled, the feasibility of friendsourcing can only go so far when you think of the entire world of travel. However, these sites can add an extra layer of leverage.”
“Crowdsourcing sites offer breadth,” said travel analyst Henry Harteveldt of the Atmosphere Group. “Friendsourcing offers trust. I could see someone checking a hotel on TripAdvisor and using Gogobot to verify the hotel with friends, while also getting additional ideas for what to do.”
The bottom line is that “friends and family remain the No. 1 source for travel information,” said Donna Quadri-Felitti, a professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management at New York University. “This idea of online friendsourcing is really just harvesting user-generated content that already exists. Everyone is trying to find the way to monetize the new social media platforms and add value to what those sites already do. Some of the sites are there; some, not yet.”
(This story originally appeared on msnbc.com Travel)