How the intelligent web can plan the perfect holiday


24 Jun 2008

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Roughly 80pc of us surf the web to plan our trips, heading to various recommendation and review sites like Boo.com or TripAdvisor, but when we want to plan a more complex trip that may involve several destinations and the factoring in of a strict budget, as a complete solution the web gets the hairy eyeball.

This is where the Semantic Web can make a difference: National University of Ireland, Galway’s DERI (Digital Enterprise Research Institute) has teamed up with Irish start-up Tourist Republic to create TripPlanr, an intelligent application that will suck in data from travel sites, blogs, social networks etc and come up with a customised trip best suited to the individual.

“TripPlanr will take content that is already out there. It will scan different websites, online tourist guides, blogging platforms, and create a big library of reviews on location, as well as scanning all the different booking elements of a trip: flights, hotels, car hire, activities,” said Jan Blanchard, founder of Tourist Republic.

“Where we see the Semantic Web coming into this is it will group this information in a structured way where we can pick what is relevant to the person planning the trip.”

Blanchard sees TripPlanr as the logical conclusion of the existing site Touristr, which already has the social element down to a tee, but will now be able to add the trip-planning aspect with this new project.

All this information – flight details, hotel rates, restaurant reviews, activity recommendations – is already out there on the web, Blanchard explained, but planning a trip involves visiting all these different sites and making sense of the information yourself.

Semantic Web technology uses data portability to channel disparate data into one application. For example, a friend of a friend on a social networking site like Facebook might have very similar interests to you and has already travelled to Cuba, where you are planning to go this summer.

TripPlanr could take this information, and based on the time of year you are going, your budget and your friend’s information, you could have a scarily accurate suggestion for your dream holiday.

Planning on a budget can also be a tedious task and Blanchard said this is where TripPlanr will shine. From user reviews it will compile average prices for hotels in the area you’re staying in and balance this against flight prices so you can keep within budget.

Of course, while TripPlanr will take existing information from the web there will be a high standard of privacy and security, Blanchard said. The user will run the show and decide how much information they want to share.

We can expect a beta version of TripPlanr within the next six months, some time in mid-December as DERI and Tourist Republic have just recruited the team and have been working on planning the application these past five months.

By Marie Boran