By Kylie Jelley
[editor’s note: VibeAgent has been rebranded as Hotelicopter. As of 2016, they are no longer in business]
VibeAgent.com is a fresh and innovative hotel search engine that helps savvy travelers find the hotel that’s right for them from the website’s unique social network. Anyone can become an agent and get the inside scoop on hotels from the community.
“I came across VibeAgent while reading a review of it on a blog; I can’t remember which one. My experience so far has been good. There is more interaction with other members than on typical travel sites and I like that,” said John Allen of Dallas.
After hearing all the buzz about VibeAgent, I surfed my way over to their website. After a few unsuccessful attempts to join, I was finally able to sign up. I entered my name, email, username and password and with a few more clicks I covertly joined the community as “Agent Jelley.”
After I was logged in, the website was simple and easy to use, and the community advice posted in each hotel review gave it a trustworthy vibe.
First I attempted to write my own review. And for an example of how to go about writing it, I clicked on one of their descriptions of a hotel located in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Greenfield is a town over from GoNOMAD, in the heart of Franklin County, a town I know relatively well. I was shocked to find that the picture that came up by the description was a snapshot of the ocean. The description suggested that travelers would be able to enjoy the proximity of the nearby coast when really the closest beach is a two-hour drive.
So I accidentally encountered a small kink in the site. When I notified the site, they thanked me and corrected it right away.
Lynn Greenholdt of Chicago appreciates VibeAgent’s social networking capabilities. Agent Greenholdt said, “I have used Tripadvisor for a few years to look for reviews when booking a hotel, but I thought the idea of VibeAgent’s reviews plus social networking would be right up my alley.
“Participating in the beta stage was interesting with a lot of give and take between those that were running the site and the agents.”
Compared to other sites, VibeAgent is a work in process, but the distinctiveness of the “friendster-style” clientele suggests that the website will find its niche in the travel industry. There is a personal feel between the site creators and the users.
“Because the site is relatively new it doesn’t have the depth of older sites, but it’s growing fast, ”said Allen. “I especially like the absence of all the commercials found on other travel sites.”
VibeAgent went public in 2007 after some time working out the bugs in the beta stage, and is now growing to more than 10,000 registered agents. The team members are working hard to improve all aspects of the website.
Both “Top 15 Agents” Greenholdt and Allen said that the booking tool worked well and was useful for finding hotels. They are active members on the site which has allowed them to be ranked two of the top agents.
Greenholdt is quite the avid traveler; she visited Germany and Belgium where she stayed in the Metropole Hotel in Brussels. Her review, like others on the site, was an honest evaluation based on her experience.
She noted that it was a “classic hotel” the beds “sagged a little” and “The rooms are huge but kind of plain and a little worn.”
“When the site went public, I continued to write reviews,” said Greenholdt. “And I have also used it to plan vacations. It has a pretty good search engine for hotel prices and as more people use the site, the reviews will become more and more helpful.”
VibeAgent’s social network features are similar to Facebook or MySpace networking sites. VibeAgent is also linked to a Facebook application called Jettsetter, which lets you compete with you friends to see who has traveled more miles.
This feature is a linked to VibeAgent to draw readers from Facebook. The team is finding new ways to expand their network and draw in new users.
I added the Jettsetter application, but have not been actively competing with mileage lately (the gas prices are just too high). It is a neat link that I think will catch on through Facebook.
Both Jettsetter and VibeAgent have a competitive spirit that is encouraged between the users. On Jettsetter you compete with your friends on Facebook to see who has traveled more miles. Also, VibeAgent encourages agents to write more and more reviews, rewarding them with their position closer and closer to the top agent. The more reviews that the website has, the larger the selection and the more dependable the site.
Co-founder and CEO of VibeAgent, Adam Healey said, “We have lots of hoteliers that are building relationships directly with guests, and we’re working on more ways to help facilitate this direct communication.”
This agent-to-agent friendship that is created through the site is what makes the site seem trustworthy. You can join different interest groups and meet other travelers.
You are able to develop a personal connection with other users, and see shared interests. If one of your friends writes a review the argument is that you will go with that unbiased review over another corporate review.
“When you read a review on VibeAgent, you have a lot of context as to who has written the review – you know how they fit in your social network.
“You know they are not some jealous hotel competitor or the hotel themselves, as happens on some of those other sites! VibeAgent lets you create a network of trusted friends, so you have immediate context as to where they are coming from,” Healey says.
Vibe agent is a great site for travelers to connect and share honest feedback from agents. Users say the site is dependable and trustworthy.
“I believe that VibeAgent has the potential to become one of the big internet travel sites, combining aspects of Kayak, Tripadvisor and Facebook. At least I hope it does,” says Lynn Greenholdt.
“Travel is my number one hobby and where I spend my discretionary income. It’s great to have a place to connect with others who share this with me and a place to plan and daydream between trips.”
Kylie Jelley is a freelance writer who lives in Massachusetts.
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