Travel networking websites and activities are expected to grow over the next five years to become a major trend according to the World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2008, released today.
The research, carried out in conjunction with Euromonitor, claims companies across the travel sector will benefit from Web 2.0 features on their websites with travel blogs and customer reviews expected to expand beyond specialist sites across the industry.
Companies are also likely to expand their products with packages that promote interaction with locals and destinations enabling travellers to experience local life.
There will also be increased partnering with travel networking websites as well as the creation of new specialist sites to promote these offerings.
According to the study the Travel 2.0 concept, and travel networking as a spin-off help explain the recent development of innovative forms of travel, such as hospitality tourism and home exchanges.
Websites including CouchSurfing.com and HospitalityClub.org have gained popularity over the last two years reaching 710,000 and 330,000 users by September 2008.
These websites aim to bring together travellers with locals willing to offer free hospitality and socialising opportunities. Couchsurfing has a presence in 232 countries and 47,544 cities world-wide, with almost 50% of its members in Europe.
Although free hospitality is one of the reasons for this type of travelling the core objective is the intercultural exchange opportunities.
The travel networking phenomenon is the convergence of several trends in the travel industry including the impact of the internet revolution, the international social networking aspect, the search for more authentic travel experiences and contact with local communities.