Viator : TripAdvisor’s mini-me

Per Ablemediao “Viator” is Latin for traveler where the word is linked to the Latin word “via”, which means road.

Viator is also the name of a company just acquired by TripAdvisor for $200m. From a piece by Forbes that reads like a cut and paste from a TripAdvisor Press release:

Viator is a website operated by travel insiders that curate the best local tours and activities, which have been visited by over 3 million people. Viator has more than 20,000 bookable tours and 600,000 reviews submitted by travelers, spanning over 1,500 destinations.

“Travelers want to explore local attractions while on their trip, and Viator’s depth and breadth in global attractions combined with their seamless booking experience will provide immediate benefit to our community, whether in the planning phase or on the trip,” said TripAdvisor president and CEO Stephen Kaufer in a statement.

A bit later, the cut and paster reporter Amit Chaudry says

People take reviews on TripAdvisor very seriously. Millions of travelers look at TripAdvisor reviews before deciding where to visit. Accommodation brands know this, which is why some have paid people to write good TripAdvisor reviews about them. More than a couple dozen hotels were blacklisted by TripAdvisor as a result. TripAdvisor now has a verification process that considers the IP address and e-mail address of the authors.

Really? This is Forbes standard of writing ? We have criticised TripAdvisor before for their false reviews under The good, the bad and the ugly, but let’s take a look at Viator.

Trajan’s friend Etu Brownius, has used Viator to book trips when in Italy and France. We had looked at it before and saw some potential in it as a site for generating ideas but felt comfortable in planning our own trips. We did like the idea of a “What to do in 3 days” list.

After reading the announcement, we took another look at Viator where we used Cardiff – a city we know well – as a test case. In case you don’t know, Cardiff is the capital of Wales. Historically it was settled by Romans and later Normans. It really took off during the industrial revolution where it was the main port for South Wales Coal.

The most popular things to do were all things you could book (and for them to make a commission) through their site.

#1. Dr Who locations around Cardiff.
#2. Cardiff City Hop on-hop off
#3. “Gavin and Stacey TV locations tour of Barry Island”.

These are Cardiff’s most popular things ? You have got to be kidding me Boyo. Totally and utterly.

While later filters did mention some of the attractions we would have recommended – Cardiff Castle, Millenium Stadium (Shrine of Welsh Rugby) , City hall, St. Faggins and some of the castles around such as Caerphilly and Castel Coch – we were surprised to see”Snowdownia” in there.

Snowdonia is in North West Wales whereas Cardiff is in South East Wales. To get there is not an easy travel in that it is over a 100 mile  drive over country roads and through towns. Believe it or not, it may be quicker to go back into England head up M5/M6, then come back into North Wales than to go over the mountains of Wales. This is a bad recommendation to visit from Cardiff.

What would have been a better recommendations is to go into the Brecon Beacons (~30 minutes drive) via one of the valley roads or go down the M4 to Gower Peninsula just west of Swansea. Swansea is worthy destination itself. Neither appeared there.

Out of curiosity, we just looked at Tokyo where some of the top recommendations are trips put on by “Sunshine tours JBT”.  They don’t tell you that but we know as we have taken some of these tours and highly recommend them. One trip we took was to Nikk0 by bus. The price on Viator was ~$3 higher than the JBT site, but booking on Viator seemed to be a lot more easier especially if you want to charge everything together. Besides we would not be surprised to see currency conversion losses if you book with JBT as their prices were in Yen. So on face value, Viator seems to be cost competitive with booking direct.

We also took at look at San Antonio on Viator to see what is on offer. We noted some things missing such as Six Flags, Some of the Caves, San Antonio Zoo and the Japanese Garden, the Botanic Garden, Witte Museum at others. We consider these some pretty big omissions. Since we were on Groupon for San Antonio, we recognized some of these tours. For example, one bus tour was at a 57% discount.

So like TripAdvisor, we like Viator as a start for for ideas but do your own research about what it is recommending and just as importantly, why it is recommending them. It is a good site if you know its limitations and some cities may be better covered than others.

If you have the time or inclination, take a look at the internet site of the tourist boards to see what else is there to do. You may be surprised to see better deals. Not all companies will cut deals with Viator.

Trajan

Trajan