Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu, Triporati and how to recommend alternatives

I am very much a Swine Flu sceptic. I am not a swine Flu denier - clearly it is a dangerous strain of the flu. Rather I believe that there is too much fear going around compared to the fatality rate. Wikipedia is reporting a suspected 101 fatalities to date. While that is terrible for those impacted, we need to take the number, risks and world response into perspective compared to the numbers that die each year in South East Asia from Malaria and in Southern Africa from HIV/AIDS. Some of the responses have been so wildly out of proportion that they defy belief. For example, serious debates were starting in Sydney last week as to how much food we should stockpiling, doctors were reporting people under the flight path worried that they could be picking up the illness from incoming passengers, in Egypt mass pig slaughters are ensuing. All of which is clearly ridiculous.

Aside from the realities for the flu versus the “pandemic panic”, it is clear that there will be a negative impact on Mexico as a travel destination. The combination of the Pandemic Panic with the Decapitation Dread of the drug war and Kidnapping Kaos from travellers being snatched from beaches has caused mass cancellations for bookings to Mexico. I am reminded of the huge reduction in visitors to Hong Kong and Macau during the dark days of SARS in 2003.

Most of the OTAs have responded by building dedicated pages for customers on the site and support staff within their customer care centres (here is the Orbitz page, here is the Travelocity page). Most are also waiving cancellation fees.

While consumers are rushing to cancel trips, they are also looking for alternatives – which feed very neatly into the recent stories on the BOOT over travel discovery and inspiration. Travel inspiration engine Triporati have built a series of pages around the concept of

When a customer goes to this site they can click on the destination in Mexico they were intending to travel to and Triporati’s pages (fed by people and technology) recommend alternatives – by region. For example the top pick alternatives for Acapulco they recommend Fort Lauderdale, Cartegena Columbia, the British Virgin Islands, Mykonos is Greece, Boracay in the Philippines, Durban Coast in Sth Africa, and good old banana bending Queensland.

I like this idea and see it is a good use of Triporati style content to respond to a traveller need. The challenge will be getting the resulting organic traffic. I see the Triporati site rating at number 4 to “Mexico Alternatives” on Google but not on the first page of “alternatives to mexico” (your Google results may vary). Full Triporati press release here.

gracias Esparta for the photo on Flickr


John said...

You can feel the fear in the market with regards to traveling in general now. The memories of SARS in Asia are very strong.

Lets see if this all dies down once people get to grips with it.

Good link here:,0,967115.story

Robert said...

The real worry about swine flu is that, historically, these new cross-species strains tend to flare up once with relatively poor human-human transmission and relatively low fatality rates. Then about 6-8 months later (normal mutation cycle for the influenza family of virii) a new version will come out that is better at human-human transmission. And is more likely to be fatal. That's why it's important to curb the flu now.

After all - what's the difference between a successfully aborted pandemic and a media beatup? The media beatup doesn't save your life later...

Tim Hughes said...

@John - thanks for the link

@Robert - also thanks for the information. I am definitely in a "dont trust the media" frame of mind. This is a natural part of being a blogger - but also I find that every story I read in the press that I have some knowledge about had errors in it. I also see less journalists under pressure to do more and under a tighter 24 hour news cycle than ever before. With the result being the regurgitation of Press Releases as fact and the statement of rumour and innuendo as fact. I am sure there are important reasons to curb the spread of this flu but I find it impossible to believe that we are on the cusp of a pandemic that will kill millions. If SARS did anything it showed us the ability of humans to react to and fight off a vicious flu strain.

Anonymous said...


Pana From the latin to mean GLOBAL FEAR

Dole From the Latin to mean THE RESULTS of the Global fear of tourism employees

Dan G. said...

there's a good slot on swine flu in this week's On The Media (always worth a listen):

Unknown said...

You can see mosquito's and you know what causes HIV. You can't see a virus. See this link about the Spanish flu of 1918 - The global travel industry would be severely harmed if such an outbreak would recur. Precautions are well founded. Prayer for global health is a good idea. Meanwhile we are looking forward to the Confederations Cup soccer in South Africa May this event and the 2010 World Cup not be affected by the flu.

Tim Hughes said...

Pierre and Dan - thanks for the links