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Interview: Travel Tech Journalist Kevin May of Tnooz.com

Just five to ten years ago, the idea of a comprehensive news outlet dedicated to "travel tech" would have seemed super-niche at best and almost silly at worst -- would we chat about seat cushion innovations? Since Tnooz, the premier travel tech news blog, launched in September, it has carved out a considerable (and still growing) audience for itself discussing travel companies' move toward social media, mobile applications, and web strategy in our brave new world. At the helm of the writing squad is veteran journalist Kevin May, a former crime reporter whose Travolution blog was the first travel trade media blog in the U.K. He's been a close watcher of travel companies' tectonic shift to the digital realm and what we can expect from its confusing but exciting future. I checked in with him recently to discuss Tnooz's recent milestones, how his crime background has helped his travel journalism, what travel companies are doing wrong in their digital strategies, and his predictions for the biggest travel tech trends in 2010.

1. First, congratulations -- I just read that Tnooz is celebrating its 6-month anniversary, and in that time you've already penned more than 900 posts while garnering a relatively massive rise in traffic in that short timespan. What do you attribute to Tnooz's immediate success?
Thanks! We've actually just hit 1,000 articles this week, so very pleased with our progress. Maybe it's better to ask a reader about why they like Tnooz. :) Nevertheless we deliberately wanted to make a splash quickly (media startups are just as tricky as travel startups) so I contacted the best bloggers and commentators in the sector and asked them to write for us. Within a few weeks I had 12 writers as part of our Node contributor structure and also secured Dennis Schaal as dedicated reporter for North America. We used the social networks to get traction in the early stages but since then it's been about just producing great articles.2. A good portion of your journalism career has been on the crime beat -- you got your degree in Criminology and used to write stories for the Police Gazette newspaper. Have you ever found your criminology background to be helpful in the travel realm? If so, how? Not directly. I suppose I may have a more cynical eye than some other journalists and I can be quite methodical when looking into an issue, something that I learned at the Police Gazette.3. You have been writing about travel in some way for quite some time now. Did you fall into this beat or was it something that always interested you?

I have never had any interest at all in 'travel writing.' In fact I have great admiration for those that can describe destinations or products with vigour, accuracy and passion, simply because it's something I've always struggled with. I did 'fall' into writing about the business of travel after hearing about an opening for an editor at a new magazine in 2005 called Travolution. Since then and through to Tnooz I've always said I must be blessed as I am lucky enough to write about three things I am genuinely interested in: technology, the Internet and travel.

4. Travel companies -- many, but not all -- seem to have caught on to the power of social media in branding their image. What, in your view, are travel companies still doing wrong when implementing their social media strategy? A few things: 1) Assuming social media is a panacea for branding and driving new business. It isn't. A good product has to be at the core. 2) Spreading themselves too thinly and trying too many channels. Find one or two social media channels that work and stick with them. There are far too many companies that continue to throw resources down the drain by tweeting or maintaining poor Facebook pages when there is clearly no point. I continually wonder whether a consumer would rather see a crap presence in social media or no presence at all.5. What is the tech trend among travel companies that you believe you'll be most closely following this year? Why? Mobile and ancillary revenues. The former because smartphone devices are allowing constant web activity and new methods of search, booking and interaction. The latter because it is controversial and airlines, technology companies and intermediaries are desperate to make it work for them.Thanks to Kevin for his time, and be sure to bookmark Tnooz!

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Interview: Travel Tech Journalist Kevin May of Tnooz.com + traveltuesday