Digital noticeboard models have always fascinated me. They express one of the most simple and brilliant benefits brought to us through the web and the beautiful www revolution over the last couple of decades… ‘connecting and empowering’ – the two vital ingredients for crowdsourcing. In the travel market these digital noticeboards offer us the ability to take control – freedom for the crowd to connect and empowerment to trade.

From high street to www…

The travel market is a vertical that has found its way slowly, but comfortably from the high street to the web. As with most verticals, the accessibility, speed and breadth that digital offered was always going to turn the crowd. So the search engines became the battle ground for the accommodation holiday market as millions flocked to discover the best deals and make the most of the accessible platform of the web.

This huge shift in traffic from both sides, consumers searching for deals and companies offering, spawned the birth of the ‘aggregators’ in the holiday market. Once more technology and the www stepped in with sites such as Oppodo, Kayak and others sitting in between the need and mass of products and providers in the new www high street.

The rise of the noticeboard…

A new trend has surfaced in the accommodation market. Crowdsourced noticeboard models. The simple principle behind these models is crowdsourcing the product and empowering the trade. Creating a crowd powered community where, anyone can add a room or their whole property, no matter what size, shape or location and specify the availability – listing is free. Then the holiday maker or visitor simply searches and rents.

Airbnb is a great example, although founded in 2007, it was in 2010 when Airbnb raised $7.2 Million in funding that it really started to grow, with 700,000 nights booked in that year. As with many crowd sourced models, what is obvious is the variety and personality – including a healthy selection of tree houses to rent.

This crowd empowered model is obviously capturing imagination, in July 2012, Airbnb had over 200,000 listings in 26,000 cities and 192 countries. They are not alone, WimduHomeAway  and TravelMob are big players in the space. All following the simple principle of the noticeboard and full of social engagement, reviews and tips.

The tourist takes control

For the visitor the benefits are cheaper accommodation, a chance to avoid the tourist trail and ‘visit like a local’ and diversity that you can only find from the crowd. It’s also opened up new revenue opportunity for hosts and reach to a global market. But it’s perhaps the ‘connecting’ that is most interesting. These new models are about putting people in touch with each other and creating a social marketplace completely owned by the crowd.

Will this start to impact more on the traditional travel market. Will it eat into market share or will it start to influence new models. Time will tell, but the rise of crowd empowerment through digital will only increase.