Saturday, January 26, 2008

WAYN saga will run and run and run

What is it about WAYN that it seems to attract a disproportionate amount of attention in the travel industry for a site of its size?

This summarised the - unfortunately - private comments of a senior executive from the industry who I spoke to yesterday afternoon after we published the latest twist in the AOL takeover non-story.

I suspect he meant "size" with regards to its commecial elements, because it does have rather a few users.

But it's a good and valid point to make because the WAYN travel community has come from nowhere to be hailed by some as the best travel social network on the web.

So is it justified?

We will leave that to consumers to decide, but no site seemingly comes from obscurity to become a significant player in its market (think Facebook, Flickr) without something decent to offer users.

From an industry perspective, what WAYN does have is two young and obviously bright frontmen who have ploughed the conference circuit over the past 18 months, spreading the word about the site.

In the meantime the team has certainly done a remarkable job of attracting commerical partners to the site (, Isango for starters).

It hasn't all been plain sailing. This time last year WAYN was seeing traffic levels take a worrying turn southwards - something which probably didn't exactly encourage its suite of new investors.

But rather than attempt a sale then, when it could have made a fair few quid for its creators and staff, WAYN pretty much admitted that its original subscription model was not reaching initial expectations and axed it, apart from a few key services.

So rather than try something else, WAYN has had another go.

The company certainly has its detractors. Travolution received a string of mystery emails last spring from someone slamming the industry for fawning over WAYN and questioning - with some interesting analysis - its chances of success.

However, as another senior figure said recently: "Their determination to get the WAYN thing right impresses people in an industry which sometimes gives up too easily."

Perhaps that is the difference? In the travel industry there is a certain 'wow factor' about WAYN - in new media circles, far less so.

WAYN certainly has its work cut out in the coming months. There are sites emerging in the US which will absolutely give it a run for its money - and Facebook is not going away.

So - as we revealed - AOL was not one of the companies which has come looking in recent months, but others are clearly interested.

For that reason, and because it has a tendency to do the unexpected (in comparison to others in the travel sector in the UK at least), we suspect WAYN will continue to get a fair amount of attention in the industry.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I met Jerome Touze, one of the WAYN founders, at the WTM in November 2007 and he did do a great presentation. I do admire the company for making brave decisions and think that there is an opportunity to generate profits with 10 million members.

I'm not sure that members will book through WAYNs flight and accommodation searches. I did a search for hotel accommodation in Edinburgh for a weekend later this month and nothing came up. Even if there had been some options I'd probably check some other sites or used a price comparison facility, rather than just go ahead and book on WAYN.