It’s been named one of the World’s Best Websites, championed by open source advocated, and feared by the traditional travel publishing industry. The subject matter is, of course, WikiTravel, one of the largest travel websites on the internet and the single largest multi-user publisher of global travel tips online. Available in 21 languages with over 20,000 articles, it’s a true giant of the modern internet.
The website’s premise is fairly simple: users can manually create pages for travel destinations and activities that they love, just like Wikipedia. Once a page has been created, anyone with a memory or a guide book is free to add content to the page, provided it’s free of copyright. Each page sits in the idle state of near-permanent editing, with content changing slightly on a daily basis.
It’s a model that has travel industry giants – including Lonely Planet – quite worried. The internet was once out of reach for travellers, with laptop computers offering the closest experience mobile users were likely to run into. But with the rise of smartphones and the surge in sales of digital book readers, websites such as WikiTravel are quickly gaining ground on their old fashioned opponents.
The company has even released its own set of paperback travel guides, built using user-written and edited content and priced to compete with rival data from Lonely Planet. The website’s biggest win point – its rapid update speed – is obviously lacking in the books, however a sense of reason and a reasonable amount of user-picked variety makes the series a worthwhile alternative.
As the website continues to grow in popularity, it seems unlikely that its traditional competitors will be able to keep up. Although Lonely Planet has launched its own new web-based travel toolkit, the large publisher seems slightly behind the curve. For travel’s large open source community, the quick progress of WikiTravel is a development that will, with hope, spread further into the travel industry.