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Developing a Tourist Community Site With WordPress

How would you like to hand-hold a web developer as he creates a WordPress-based Tourist Community Site? Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize recently decided to create such a site for his small tourist town of Bariloche in Argentina. And he wants your help. Over the next month or so, Amir will be taking your advice on this blog to help him create his community tourist site with WordPress. As with all such endeavors, it begins with a plan.

By Amir Helzer

I’ve been living in Bariloche, Argentina, for the past few years. It’s a small town, so folks know each other pretty well. A popular tourist destination, everyone here is doing something with tourists, from renting out cabañas to ski instructors, trout fishing guides to para-gliding. As a web expert, friends often ask if I can help them build a website for their business. They hear that it’s a good way to get new business, especially rich folks from the US and Europe. We may be a calm and relaxing vacation destination, however, we are also determined business people.

Most locals are familiar with static websites, with enough content for a contact page and photo gallery showing off the same tourist images of Bariloche. Recently, I decided instead of meeting their needs individually, I would create a community site for tourist information with WordPress. It will be called Baripedia.

This is not a common project and I need your help and input to make this tourist community site work with WordPress. I’ll be asking WordPress to do a lot of things that stretch it in many ways, ways we aren’t very familiar with. I think it’s the right tool for the job, but making WordPress do what we ask of it pushes it beyond its traditional usage. Want to help?

The Challenges of a Community Tourist Site

Most businesses appearing on Baripedia will need the basics and a bit more:

  • A few ‘static’ pages, like a home page and details about different things they offer.
  • A contact page.
  • Order processing, so that visitors can pay online for products, lodging, and services.
  • News and events.
  • Map locater (such as Google maps, but it isn’t available in Argentina).

There are a variety of challenges facing a community site focused on tourism. It must represent the community as well as each business involved. Here are some of the challenges involved:

Each company must have a page of information about their products and services with contact information.

  1. Ecommerce WordPress Plugins must also serve each individual company from within the site.
  2. We need to decide how to incorporate each business into the site. Should we use and give each business their own “blog” with a front entry blog that links all of the individual ones within the network together? Or have one self-hosted version of WordPress that serves all the businesses?
  3. Decide how much “freedom” and control each business would have over their “pages” and content. What if one business gets into blogging and writes over 100 blog posts quickly while the others write only a couple?
  4. Decide what content will go into the community site and which business will contribute what content. Do we need a community editor that will keep the blog going or will each business contribute fairly equally?
  5. Decide the format of the design and structure. Will it be a newspaper/magazine style, or should it be more commercial and aimed strictly towards high end vacation customers? Or maybe it should be very community-oriented and “friendly”, representing the relaxed tourist community?
  6. We need functions that are not blog-oriented, such as table views of different businesses with filtering and sorting features. How do we build these functions so that they’re agile and will not easily break when WordPress updates.

To choose right, we must remember what’s important to the people who would eventually participate in this project. To work well, over time, people need to get a real benefit, which can be measured. There are three main things people need it for:

  1. To have a URL to print on business cards, brochures and other printed stuff.
  2. A URL to give to other websites. I’m talking about these separately, as this URL can be ask long and complex as needed, while the other must be short.
  3. To get traffic from search engines and people who know the ‘portal’.

While an independent website, on its own domain would be best for having a short and nice URL, it’s the least fitting for the other two needs. In reality, if there are hundreds of similar businesses, in the same town, Google is not likely to return the website of a particular one, when it can return the website of a directory. Especially if the directory is rich in contents and adheres to web standards.

Ideally, we should find a solution which lets every business feel like he’s got his own patch on the net, where he can express himself and be competitive, while the entire site acts as a high quality resource for information about Bariloche. Your suggestions?

Thanks, Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize

By Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize and Baripedia
Helzer is the founder of ICanLocalize, a human translation service for websites and publishers, developer of Baripedia, a community tourist website and WordPress blog for Bariloche, Argentina, and a web developer.

30 Comments

  1. Posted October 15, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    whoa. that’s cool. we’ll be watching it.

  2. Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    This is such a wonderful idea for your community. Good luck with your endeavor!

  3. Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    A lot of what we do on our site is Tourism based. We run it as a Online News site, with 1,600 stories in a year and a half.

    http://www.LondonderryNH.net

    The traffic looking for our five local farms or “Agrativities” as we now call it has increased so much we are working on VisitLondonderry.com targeting those looking to spend the day or longer in our town.

    Sounds similar to the mission of Baripedia.

  4. xplanta
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I tried running a community-based tourist site here in Puerto Vallarta, MX, and it turned into a mess, not technically, but socially. There were simply too many competing businesses for things to stay smooth.

    I ended up with http://www.pvscene.com as an independent entertainment calendar and events site with the secondary goal of culturally uniting and intermixing the divergent communities here, the gay, the Mexican and the expat.

    I’m using WordPress more as a CMS than a blog for this project.

  5. Posted October 15, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Steve,

    Did doing those drop down CSS menus require any programming in your theme or is there a plugin that down that?

    Thanks,
    Amir

  6. Posted October 15, 2008 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Interesting project!
    We’ve built an Italy guide which might give you some ideas, though its mostly in Norwegian – http://www.Dolcevita.no.
    We don’t have to think about giving different companies writing permissions on different parts of the site. Neither do we have any payment system integrated yet.
    What we do have, is a tidy structure and eg the possibility to post directly to about 30 pages (using categories) – which might be a handy way to do things also for you.
    Maybe you can pick some ideas. And maybe just as well we can learn something from you.
    Good luck!
    Kjetil – Oslo

  7. Posted October 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kjetil,

    Your Italy site looks great. Very clean and appealing.

    I can’t understand the texts, so maybe I’m barging into an open door…

    When people land in internal pages, like http://www.dolcevita.no/umbria/castiglione-borg-ved-innlandshav/ it’s difficult to know where they are in the website and what’s relevant to that. People might get directly to these pages via searches or a direct link.

    For this, I’m planning to implement ‘trail navigation’, which always shows where you are, going up to the Home Page. I’ll be glad to share this plugin with the community when it’s available.

    Also, I think that the top tab, under which the page appears should be highlighted, as a navigational aid.

    My questions:
    1) Your top menu looks just like I want it to be. How did you implement it?
    2) Are you using a WP page as your home page, or is it something else?
    3) The right-hand menu shows related articles. Are those posts in the same category, or pages under the same parent page?

    Cheers,
    Amir

  8. Posted October 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I read an article on turning wordpress into a membership directory which is very similar to what you are doing with your local bnusiness listings.

    I hope this helps (luckily it was still in my favs folder!)

    http://www.wpdesigner.com/2008/03/01/how-to-use-wordpress-as-a-membership-directory/

    The other thing I thought of was to use the “limit catagories” plugin and allow local business owners to post only in a single category after they register.

    Just some thoughts…

  9. Posted October 15, 2008 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Rob,

    I didn’t think about membership management, but it’s something I’ll have to do. Limiting posts to relevant categories will also help keep things running with must less administration.

  10. Posted October 15, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Hii.. Amir,

    You have brilliant idea, please keep going. I will support you from http://WWW.balivillaspro.com

  11. Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Amir

    We are about to do something very similar in that we want to bring together a group of farmers and food producers from an area of the UK.

    We use wordpress for many of our sites now and were considering using MU in some way to make the blogging facility available to individual producers, in order that they can add their own content. Many of the criteria you have set are very similar to ours.

  12. Posted October 16, 2008 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Two years ago I was looking for just the same as you did. In the end I realized I had to choose a template and try to adjust it as I thought would be the best. It is working ok, today, simple but most of my clients finds it informative and that is the purpose. However I would like to change template to a more “tourist business” one. I hope your efforts will bring that forward!

    Also I have chains of local suppliers – just like you who would really benefit form a site – as you describe it.

    If you need input – just contact me at http://www.travelgatesweden.se

  13. Posted October 16, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    sounds like a great idea.

    We have been kind of working on a project like this for the last few years in an area in Tuscany Italy called Barga.

    A tiny city (in fact it is the smallest city in Italy) but with an incredible amount of artists working in and around the city. The site reflects (hopefully) the artistic life of the community as well as the commercial side.

    We have used categories as an integral part of the overall portal … hey instead of writing about it … go and have a look for yourselves; http://www.barganews.com

    ciao
    db

  14. Posted October 16, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    The menus are part of the Theme I use. Proudly presented at the bottom of the page if you need a link to the creator. dkret is a great theme by Joern in Germany. The menus can be no, one two or three levels. All built into his template. He also does a great job at helping with customizing. He does not “fix it for you” but teaches you how to fix it. We have a column width issue, I have yet to work on but when asking for help he created a great tutorial.

    We selected his theme because the columns make it look like a real news site. That is our intent.

    Today Barack Obama came to speak in our town. We spent quite a bit of time publicizing it. The intent is to have the people that are looking at our little town of 25,000 right now to come back. Both physically and virtually. By the looks of our Woopra results today, they are. We are watching people look all over our site for activities to do in Londonderry today. Of course we wrote the stories to accomplish that. Add Woopra to your toolkit. I am sure Lorelle will agree.

    By the way, also on your site, we have a saying here “Content Counts!” I estimate that the success of our site is due to 90% content and 10% technology (and 100% from the heart)

  15. Posted October 17, 2008 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    We have a siteDiscover Rhodes, acting as a DIS (Destination Information System) that uses WP, a few plugins and some custom code that has some of the features you want to use on your site. I think you can use some of the ideas although the site is not yet finalized.

  16. Posted October 17, 2008 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    –> Thanks a lot Steve,

    The ‘dkret’ theme is a great starting point, already implementing many things I need.
    My theme will be GPLed too, in the hope that people add on it.

    –> Hello Nikos!
    You’ve got a great site there. It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve been to Rhodes and visiting your site made me want to go back today.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions:
    * What did you use for the AJAX box at the top with the tabs?
    * How did you implement the ‘features’ box in the middle, with the optional images?
    * It never occurred to me to use Flickr for offloading image storage and download. What plugin are you using for the Flickr images?

    Cheers,
    Amir

  17. Arpit Tambi
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Great idea, Amir, such a thing would be valuable to the tourists. And if you succeed, many others would follow the model, creating more and more value. Gr8!

    I had a concern, see Yahoo Travel – San Carlos de Bariloche Argentina Vacations.

    Something similar already exists there and may be other travel sites offer similar things you are trying to do.

    My point is, you should make the thing at least 100 times better than that already exists. And WordPress is not something that is capable of doing such stuff. Meaning even if you start with WordPress, you’ll have to do code level changes.

    Make sure you have sufficient knowledge, time and resources. My suggestions -
    1) Try BuddyPress buddypress.org
    2) Make a Web 2.0 app
    3) First connect the tourists, that’s most important, when you have buyers, sellers would themselves jump in and do your stuff.
    4) Try creating Mashups, contextually integrating your site with Flickr, Youtube, Twitter and similar sites. Yahoo Pipes may help you.
    5) Better link the information/content rather than… you know what I mean.

    All the best!!

  18. Posted October 17, 2008 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Hi Tambi,

    Yahoo Travel – San Carlos de Bariloche Argentina Vacations is actually a good example for why I’m going through this.

    They only list ‘ivory league’ places there. Llao Llao Hotel, for instance, is one of the most expensive places in South America. They have no restaurants listed and no ideas for things to do :-)

    I’m planning to make this very accessible to local businesses and individuals. This will contribute real valuable contents and give people a reason to visit it. Not just to book a room, but to learn about places to go and things to do.

    For example, if a guy who’s doing guided horse back riding enters a few articles about his trips, telling what’s on the way and a few stories, it’s very helpful for him and for the website.

    Thanks for all your suggestions too. They make sense. I’m pretty strict about ‘borrowing’ contents and plan to include 100% originals for this project.

  19. Posted October 17, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Amir,

    So, you’ve been to Rhodes 10 years ago eh? Well I was certainly much younger then and yet not a father. I hope you enjoyed your stay here.

    Now for the tabs, we used a jQuery plugin called UI-tabs adapted to our needs. The features section is a just a category and for the small images, we use the custom field for the image name. For the flickr images at the home page we use SimplePie plugin to get the feed from flickr and then some custom scripting. I suggest you use flickrRSS plugin which is easy to implement and customize.

    Regards

  20. Arpit Tambi
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Yahoo does includes smaller ones too (that’s what I discovered when last time I looked in to book a hotel in Thailand). Infact English content on Google was not satisfactory and Yahoo helped me a lot, they have this rating and customer review functionality which is really great.

    Anyway Yahoo is doing it for money and they list big business cuz that’s what makes them most cash.

    Do you really think local businesses would be willing to enter their stuff on your site. I am doubtful about that. They would be rather willing to add their stuff on Yahoo and other big sites.

    Take Google as a case, first they got their search system up, then users started coming in, and soon advertisers (businesses) followed. That’s how it works.

    I’d highly recommend, do not create content that already exists, link to it. You may want to try Yahoo BOSS and include their search results on your site. So for example when someone clicks on a link called “Bariloche Restaurants”, a yahoo search is performed and lists all results on your site. Similarly you can include more information very easily (one day? yeah).

    Create content only if it doesn’t exists. What are your thoughts? How do you plan to go about it?

  21. Posted October 17, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Hi Arpit,

    I live here and people actually came to me to build their websites. A lot of contents is already ‘in the pipe’ now, being written and edited.

    Small brands like Yahoo! and Google are not very accessible for very small guys. What I’m doing is actually hire a local paper reporter, on a part time basis. His job is to add the content in an orderly manner. His pay will come mostly from the business owners themselves for writing and editing.

    It costs about $500 USD for someone to build a complete website from scratch here, including hosting and maintenance. In Baripedia, it will be more like $150 – one time fee, including getting the content translated to English, Portuguese and German. It’s not a bad deal. This payment will go almost all to the editor, who’s doing most of the work, and some to pay for general expenses (like adding contents ourselves).

    People are actually excited about getting listed there and want to contribute their stories. I’ll be glad to share how this goes, as content starts being published.

  22. Posted October 17, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Amir,

    I just finished a six month stint with WordPress-MU and, as far as I’m concerned, it simply isn’t worth it. A variety of very helpful plugins didn’t work, there were issues with .htaccess and WPMU, it didn’t store files in a standardized way (making moving things rather difficult), upgrades weren’t as smooth (or even functioning, for the last two upgrades) as they are supposed to be, and it ended up needing to be replaced. While MU originally appealed to me for having a single back-end for managing everything, it just didn’t work, and I ended up reverting to regular WP so I could get the software up-to-date and secure.

    You mentioned above creating a breadcrumb for your site in WP. Check out WordPress SEO over at Yoast, which has a link to a breadcrumb plugin that Joost created. No sense in reinventing the wheel.

    I recommend doing separate installs of WordPress, perhaps with a base one for the front-end of the site and then the rest in either sub-domains or sub-directories. I know that it would seem that this is what WPMU is made for, but while great in principle, I found it lagged behind WP. The updates were released much later for MU than they were for WP, and it just didn’t work as well. You’ll be happier with WP.

  23. Arpit Tambi
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Hey Amir

    Your project is really exciting. I’m not sure if you are doing it for profit or not. But I would like to see how it actually turns out to be.

    WordPress is gr8, I just saw the new WordPress 2.7 design and Akismet Stats, awesome is the only word that comes to my mind.

    You need to consider these points as well –
    Who manages the content? You need to consider things like making changes, adding things, deleting things etc.

    Why not allow business owners to do their stuff (they can pay if they don’t want to do the hard work)

    WordPress MU is the way to go, managing 1000s pages of content(including images) in WordPress single installation is very tedious.

    Features like sorting and stuff should be written separately and linked with the main site. Let business owners decide what theme they want and what pages they want to create and linking stuff.

    I’d also love if other than comments and rating stuff, tourists get some cool interactive stuff to do on site, maps, galleries etc. Good luck!

  24. Posted October 18, 2008 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Lorelle,
    I tried to leave this comment on Ryan Boren’s WP 2.7 post, but got “Preconditions Failed” Message. Here’s hoping you can pass it along.
    Thanks
    PIF

    A feature I would like to see – and it seems simple to me as a non-programmer – is for WP to be able to see/read all uploaded media files. For instance, in the past, WP crashed and I had to reinstall. Fine no problem, however, the reinstall was unable to see/read the image files I had previously uploaded and I had to manually code all previous posts with images to find the correct directories.

    Now with the new Media Library, it is still unable to see/read those files: if I want to reuse those images in a newer post, I have to hunt via ftp and make the appropriate code.

    Easy to replicate – just create new directory in wp-content/uploads (2008/10 for instance), upload any image (image_a.jpg for instance) via ftp to that directory, and then, open Media Library/gallery – no image_a.jpg.

    Think this could be fixed?
    thanks in advance,
    PIF

  25. Posted October 18, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    @ poorfisher:

    The place to pass this information on is not through me, or even through Ryan. Please use the WordPress Ideas or WordPress Forums to let them know.

    WordPress doesn’t “crash” so I’m not sure what problem you had. Your database may have gotten corrupted or your server crashed, so a backup would have helped project you from that.

    Your input is important, so please use the right platform to be heard. Thanks.

  26. Posted October 19, 2008 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I would choose the way Arpit Tambi suggested and start with WP-MU/BuddyPress. You may also consider a commercial solution like Social Engine (thinking of support in the future when you have thousands of users :).

    Good luck!

  27. Posted October 19, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Hii Arpit Tambi,

    I am balinese, I heve created my http://www.balivillaspro.com two months ago. please advice me what should I do to grab people to visit my website? For your information I beginner learn about website. My purpose to create http://www.balivillaspro.com for create own business on villa rental in Bali.

    Your suggestion is highly required
    Thanks

  28. Posted May 27, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    hi there, I bumped in this website because I’m trying to find out some info about creating a WP site where people can rent tourist apartment. My purpose is to leave the owners to manage their own apartments simply logging in my WP site, updating the booking calendar and answering to the customers’ questions received through a contact form. So, (considering that I don’t have a clue about php, css, html & co.) and I would like to know if I should consider using WP or going for WPMU. any suggestions?

    • Posted July 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      WordPressMU is no longer supported as it is now incorporated into WordPress 3.0, and multi-sites are now called blog networks. If you are unfamiliar with WordPress, stick with the single hosted version or find a good WordPress developer to help you. Good luck with your project.

  29. Posted June 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    We created a similar website for the Philippines where we provided honest reviews of local and national hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions. Since the beginning, we have seen a steady month on month growth with our average daily visitors now being just over 2000 unique users per day.


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Developing a Tourist Community Site With WordPress (Amir on Lorelle’s site) [...]

  2. [...] Lorelle on WordPress – Developing a Tourist Comunity Site with WordPress [...]

  3. [...] responses previous article, Developing a Tourist Community Site with WordPress here on Lorelle on WordPress about Baripedia showed me that we’re not alone. It’s great [...]

  4. [...] your help beginning in the first post on how to build a tourist community website with WordPress, I’ve been so honored by your collaboration and help to improve my community’s new [...]

  5. […] In Building a Tourist Community Website With WordPress: Content Rules, I described how our new tourist community website, Baripedia, has made the decision to hire a writing professional to rewrite and edit all the content on our site to make it professional, web-friendly, SEO-friendly, and easy to read. My decisions have been greatly influenced by your input in the first posts on this series on building a tourist community website. […]

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