When I was little I always desired to be “well-traveled” and I still do. Of course when money affords it, I travel near and far, and when it doesn’t I like to “travel” locally.
To me, travel is about discovery and making connections with people and places that I lack any concept of. I travel to explore and learn new things, to regain my sense of wonderment and of course to make art via my camera and thus, share my discoveries via photographs.
Last summer, Steve and I were invited to a friend’s wedding in Portugal. She was Romanian and he was Portuguese. The bride, Dana, and I had quickly become friends while attending graduate school in London. I was with her when she met her husband-to-be while we were on a trip to New York City for a gallery show of hers. Even though funds were tight for us, there was no way Steve and I were going to miss this trip of a lifetime, which brings me to my topic, using TripAdvisor to promote small businesses.
If you are not familiar with TripAdvisor.com, let me describe how it works. TripAdvisor allows you to research and book vacations and getaways, but most importantly, it allows virtually anyone to post reviews of places they have been and things they have done. Looking for some place new to go? Going somewhere you’ve never been and want to know what to expect? Looking for a good hotel or place to eat? TripAdvisor can help you. TripAdvisor provides user reviews and a lot of helpful comments and pictures to boot. If you’ve never used Trip Advisor you’re probably wondering if it really works and if the reviews are “real” or even helpful. After months of research, I based my 2 week trip through Portugal off of TripAdvisor and frankly, it was the best trip Steve and I have ever been on thanks to the site and its user reviews.
Previous to using Trip Advisor, I had absolutely no concept of what Portugal would be like when first trying to plan our excursion. I’ve been to Spain and of course Portugal is right next door, but for some reason even the word “Portugal” seemed so foreign to me that I lacked any concept of what it could possibly be like. Even though I picked up three guide books, I seemed to be having a difficult time wrapping my head around what I was reading or what to expect or prepare for. This trip was going to be a cross country trip via rental car in a foreign country, so preparation was a must! That’s when I went online and began my search.
We all know how great the internet is for booking flights and hotels, but the most useful tool for traveling, for me, has been TripAdvisor. It’s free and quite accurate not to mention extremely helpful and educational. TripAdvisor has user reviews from all over the world, which brings me to my next point. What if we utilized Trip Advisor and sites like it to promote our great town, to promote small businesses and show the world what Oswego has to offer. What if we used this great tool to entice travelers to explore our great town and discover something new.
The most interesting part about using TripAdvisor is discovering “who” reads these reviews. TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel community. With 20 million members and more than 50 million monthly visitors and over 50 million reviews and opinions, not to mention 30 sites in 21 different languages, it’s definitely the place to be “seen” and “heard”. Since I had such great experiences using the site, I’ve shared my experiences as well and every once in a while I will receive an email from the site giving me statistics on who is reading my reviews. For example, I wrote a review about Hudson Crossing Park and posted some pictures as well. In one weekend alone, 111 travelers were looking for information about Oswego. But all they had in regards to information about our town were three reviews about lodging, 11 restaurant reviews, of which only two were locally owned restaurants and sadly, there are only two reviews about things to do in the area.
We have all been to and know some great place in Oswego that we would like share with others. So spread the word and use TripAdvisor to post your reviews about the great places you have been or go to in Oswego. Have a favorite restaurant? Tell the world what excites you about it. Have a favorite shop or place you like to stop in? Why not write a review about it? Everyone has a camera phone, so take a picture while you’re there. It’s easy to do. If you’re not already a member, just go to www.TripAdvisor.com. All you have to do to get started is fill out the usual profile information and provide an email address and password and just search Oswego, Illinois. As you go along, the site will prompt you to more listings for businesses and places of interest in our area. And if you are a small business owner I urge you to get your business listed as well. Since November of this year I have posted 16 reviews including Oswego and Portugal. Over 3, 452 readers have seen my posts. To break the statistics down even further, 57% of my readers are in the United States, 27% are German, 8% are British and the other 7% come from other countries.
It’s a great resource just waiting to be used. Our reviews can promote the Village of Oswego and bring people to our great community and help the small businesses not just exist, but thrive, which in turn will make our community thrive. After all, isn’t that part of the reason we shop local? And you never know, you may just discover some place new for yourself while you’re at it!