People love food, people love travel. Most people love both – so why are there so few websites that connect these two incredibly popular interests? If you have a passion for both, you could fill a big gap in the market.
This idea came to me after hearing about a clever travel company in Northern Italy that runs the Treno dei Sapori, the Train of Taste. It’s an early 20th century diesel locomotive which takes passengers around the Lake Iseo, Franciacorta and Valle Camonica areas.
The views are stunning enough but passengers also get to taste the specialty food and wines of each area as they pass through, with the gastro-experience complimented by expert guides.
The idea of combining travel with food is a good one because exploring different foods is a lot of the fun of travel. But this combination is strangely missing online.
Gap in the market?
Unless I’ve missed something, with the exception the online version of Food and Travel magazine and a couple of blogs , there are no large audience food and travel websites. There are plenty of travel sites and plenty of food sites but few that combine the two.
Sites like Time Out and Rough Guides have reviews of restaurants and bars, but that’s only of interest for people already in the area with a very specific query: “a jazz bar near Oxford Street”, for example.
Where are the websites for bored office workers in cubicles to escape work for ten minutes? Where are sites for foodies that like to travel?
The figures add up
Travel sites can be very profitable. Two random searches on Google’s Keyword Tool show that keyword phrases like “rome italy” and “paris france” are both popular searches that attract high pay-per-click rates from advertisers. That’s also the case for most popular tourist destinations.
Adding food into the mix would give your site a unique, press-worthy angle.
How to make a website like this
There are two approaches you could take to bring this idea alive.
The simplest is to start a blog. Pick a geographical area with a distinct food culture – France, the Mediterranean, New York, etc. – and write about the attractions and the food of the place. Something like insider food tips from locals would work well.
You could generate revenue from advertising, Amazon and affiliate links for travel guides or even your own ebook or app created from the “best of” bits of your blog, once you’ve accumulated enough content.
Another approach would be to make a map based website that works like an interactive guide, showing users the best places to eat out or buy food. You’d need a quite a few reviews and ratings to be useful so that your users keep coming back for more. That means either creating or outsourcing a batch of original reviews – or cheating.
The Google data can be accessed with a programming service called an API, which lets you use content and services without needing to visit the website they come from.
Ideally, you’d gradually supplement the API material with your own original content – but using Google’s Map and Local services will allow you to hit the ground running and prevent the site from feeling empty.
Revenue opportunities include using Google AdSense on the page or within the map, or selling your own advertising to local restaurants and specialist food stores.
Using mobile location services
If you wanted to get really clever, you could combine the map with the new geo-location features of HTML 5 which allows you to detect the location of your visitor. That means that, for example, if a visitor to your site is wandering around the heart of Paris using a tablet or smartphone to try to find a good priced French restaurant with good reviews, your website can show them businesses that are nearby and fit the description.
Along with those paid for featured listings, of course.