Wikivoyage: Will it impact travel industry?

Wikivoyage: Will it impact travel industry?

Wikimedia's massive free online resource is written and edited by travelers for travelers. Guidebooks be warned
Though online since last year, the Wikimedia Foundation's newest site launched officially this week.

The latest free online resource by the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikivoyage.org, officially launched on January 15 and already the site is attracting plenty of attention for the potential impact it will have on the travel content industry.  

Like Wikipedia and the other projects in the foundation, Wikivoyage is advertisement free, built collaboratively by global volunteers and written by its users

“Wikivoyage is a great, useful service for travelers, and I’m expecting that with the support of the Wikimedia Foundation and the global Wikimedia editing community, it’s going to get even bigger and better,” said Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation in a statement

Create your own guidebook, in one of nine languages  

Wikivoyage is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. The English site has the most articles -- more than 25,000. 

Much of the content was pulled over from Wikitravel -- a privately owned open-source travel guide based on the wiki model -- following a nasty little legal battle that kicked off last summer, more of which can naturally be read about on Wikipedia.

Pretty much everything is covered. There are suggestions on hotels and restaurants, currency, transportation, scams to watch out for and so on.

Given how many people are involved though -- all submissions go through 200 volunteer editors -- the quality of writing varies from location to location.  

But one of the highlights of Wikivoyage -- and the reason guidebook publishers might be getting jittery -- is that users have access to a free “Book Creator” option that lets them select pages to add to their personal guidebook, which can then be downloaded to print or saved to a e-reading device.

For example, if you’re heading to Thailand and visiting only Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket, rather than buy a whole book on the country you can select the pages highlighting only the destination you want, as well as the overall information on Thailand, like currency and transportation options. Then download it as a PDF, Open Document, OpenZim or EPUB file and send it to whatever device you want to access it from. 

Wikivoyage's impact

Various tech sites covering Wikivoyage's launch are praising the website as a valuable travel planning tool, though most are in debate over its potential to completely replace the average traveler's need for outside resources.  

"I don’t think Wikivoyage poses an existential threat to TripAdvisor, Google or, for that matter, Lonely Planet: it’s simply not playing the same game," says an article on travel industry news website Skift, by Jani Patokallio

"Quite the contrary, it promises to be a great resource of information for everybody. In the same way that Google pulls in data for Wikipedia for its search results and Lonely Planet’s website uses images sourced from Wikimedia Commons, other travel guides will be able to complement their own content with additional data from Wikivoyage." 

In the same article, Patokallio notes that for Wikivoyage to become as globally ubiquitous as Wikipedia, it has a few issues to tackle. Among these, clearer separation between objective and subjective travel information.

"Wikis are great for 'the train takes 15 minutes and costs $2.50,' but not so much for 'the pizzas are great and the music rocks,'" he writes. "Allowing multiple comments, reviews or ratings of some kind for listings is needed." 

Will you use Wikivoyage to plan your trips? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.  

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