TravelMuse site offers travel shoppers vacation inspiration
By Dan Luzadder
Some travelers may like hunting Gila monsters in the desert; others may prefer para-sailing in Paraguay; some just want to be
beached with a book.
But a good many travelers who turn to
the Internet for travel information either
don’t know where they want to go or are
out of ideas about things to do.
And the online travel shopper looking
for inspiration has long been frustrated by
destination-oriented websites that some,
such as industry analyst Henry Harteveldt,
believe are more difficult to navigate than
they need to be.
But in the online-offline battle for travelers’ attention, the founders of TravelMuse
.com have taken the “inspiration” part to
heart, launching an online effort that they
contend will bring to travel planning exactly what’s been lacking: a meld of writer-driven, magazine-like editorial content
coupled with travel search, shopping and
booking all in one place.
Co-founder and CEO Kevin Fliess, a former executive at business software company SAP, has big ambitions for the new site.
“We want to be the household name in
travel planning,” he said.
The idea for TravelMuse started some 13
months ago when Fliess and other former
SAP employees started looking at the travel
space for opportunities. He said financial
backer Azure Capital pushed them toward
creating an “online concierge service.”
Fliess noted that Harteveldt’s comments
late last year that the travel industry was
“standing still” when it came to giving
online travelers new options hit home, because the company was already trying to
address those issues.
“A lot of us are very time-constrained,
and vacation time is precious,” Fliess said.
“People want a quick and easy way to determine where they want to take a vacation.”
From editorial suggestions, users can
jump from destination information to
drill down to the level of individual hotels
(some 90,000 are represented on the site),
flight possibilities available, restaurants, all
the way through to activity bookings.
Booking through the site is subcontracted through a third-party supplier,
World Choice Travel, a subsidiary of
The majority of the site’s 50 freelance
writers will contribute to new content each
week, and that content is integrated with
travel destination guides that are also licensed from a third-party supplier.
Some 200 domestic and international
destinations are represented on the site so
far, accounting for about 95% of the world’s
most popular tourist destinations.
The site also allows collaborative travel
planning and provides users the ability to
take information from other sites and include it in the travelers’ portfolio of options
and potential itineraries.
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TravelMuse.com launched earlier this
month for public beta testing, with a feature
it calls the Inspiration Finder. It attempts to
stimulate that inspiration by combining
travel writing and recommendations from
some 50 freelance journalists with the ability to go beyond what is described there, all
the way to photos and descriptions of the
places they talk about.
“Inspiration comes in the editorial content, in the ability to immerse yourself into
the content and have an armchair travel experience,” he said. “The second part is the
Inspiration Finder. In a couple of seconds
you can enter in your personal preference,
your budget, the accommodation class,
how far you want to travel and what kind
of experience you want.”
The site then provides individual destination options based on those preferences,
narrowed from the very start by how much
a traveler wants to spend.
“The data we have seen is that roughly
20% of online travelers don’t know where
they want to go when planning a vacation,
so the planning piece is all about saving
time and making better decisions,” Fliess
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