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Social Media Portal interview with James Street from My Destination

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 21 March 2013

Social Media Portal interview with James Street from My Destination

Profiled interview with James Street, co-founder of travel website My Destination

My Destination logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there for My Destination?

James Street (JS): My name is James Street, Iím the co-founder. I am largely involved in growing the business and finding suitable people to work with in destinations around the globe.

SMP: What did you do before co-founding My Destination?

JS: I was studying business administration at Bath University. My business partner and I left after our third year (of a four year course) to start the business.

SMP: When was My Destination formed and what was the idea behind the brand?

JS: It was formed in the Summer of 2006, but back then it was one destination guide that we built in the space of a couple of months.

However, it was better than anything else out there for that destination and very quickly we were generating revenue in advertising.  We wanted to replicate this around the world, but expanding to new destinations we needed the local knowledge.  So our franchising model was born; the franchisee provides the fresh content and generates ad revenue locally and we provide all of the technical support needed. An online franchise was pretty unheard of back then but this model is really our USP and is what will stand us apart from the rest of the pack as we grow.

SMP: What do you see as My Destinations goals and objectives?

JS: We want to grow to become the best online travel guide within five years.

SMP: How did you initially attract users the My Destination website and blog and how do you do it now?

JS: A combination of offline and online marketing, so Adwords and organic traffic, but also our franchisee actively market their destinations on the ground with posters, flyers, and stickers.

Photograph of James Street co-founder of travel website My DestinationSMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

JS: Our first and probably one of the biggest highs was selling our first franchise. We had quit university and were doing business the trial and error way, so to convince someone to come on board, trust and start this journey with us was a big ask and Fiona, based in the Algarve is still with us today and is a great brand ambassador.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities (digital, social and otherwise)?

JS: We have so many ways in which we could still improve the site, but our biggest challenge has and always will be getting up the search engines.  This may seem easy that if you have the best content you should be on the front page, but we certainly donít find this is the case. I will save you from an earful about Google though!

SMP: How old is the current site and how long did it take to build?

JS: Well it is an ever-evolving thing so we are always tweaking and updating things on the site. The general design you see on the sites today though was updated in mid 2012.

SMP: What are the plans for the site in the future Ė when are we likely to see a new site and what might it contain?

JS: The big thing we will be adding to the site this year are community features so our users can easily save businesses, write reviews and ask and answer travel questions etc.

SMP: How do you manage the translation of the site for the numerous languages that you cater for?

JS: We use Google Translate which we all know is less than perfect, but in those destinations where the local language and the local market is hugely important then the franchisee will professionally translate the site.

SMP: Are there any regions that you donít cover and would like to?

JS: Yes, numerous destinations around the world are still available especially in the U.S., but we will get there with time.

SMP: There is a mobile version of the site, when are the My Destination apps coming and what content might they cover?

JS: This year.  We did have an app, but during the big re-design of the site we had to remove it from the market.  We will certainly be bringing it back and what we will be doing is offering all the great content you get on our sites on the app. One extra feature would be if you saved a trip itinerary on the site, then you would be able to take it with you on your mobile.

SMP: Who writes the travel articles and how do you manage the editorial calendar for that?

JS: We have a team of content writers working on the site and a lot of the articles are written by our franchisees as well.

SMP: How do you find more collaborators for the articles?

JS: We have a lot of good relationships with guest bloggers around the world who often get in touch to submit articles or blog posts. We promote them through the site and in return we get some great content.

SMP: How does the franchising work (locals partners) what are you looking for?

JS: Very simply we are looking for people who love their destination and want to shout about it. Our local experts have to be the most sociable people about town, those who know all of the local business owners and like to do business face to face. Those are our most successful franchisees.

SMP: And, what should partners look for in My Destination?

JS: We promise whoever is joining the network that what they invest in is not just what they see today, but something that is ever evolving and growing. If you bought a Subway franchise for instance you know what you are going to get and you know itís not going to change significantly. We have a great business today, but we still have so much we would like to do to the sites to improve the revenue opportunities that we have yet to fully tap into, so it is an exciting business to work on.   

SMP: Is there anything else we should know, or is there anything that youíd like to share?

JS: Do you want to see the Royal Family do a Harlem Shake?

SMP: Best way to contact you and My Destination?


Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

JS: A big coffeeÖitís been a busy day so far!

SMP: Whatís the last good thing that you did for someone?

JS: I like to meet people who are starting out in new businesses and just give them some things that might help. It may be a small thing like watch out who you hire and always ask for references, things that are so important but seem obvious and were certainly ignored as we expanded and have cost us.

SMP: If you werenít running or working on My Destination what would you be doing?

: I would probably be working in the property industry, which is where I spent one of my University placements; the other I spent in Brazil enjoying myself, but the course didnít know that.  

SMP: What is your favourite destination and why?

JS: New Zealand. I travelled there for three months before University and I loved every second of it. If you are an outdoor sort of person then there is no better place on earth.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

JS: Last holiday was skiing in Chamonix over New Year. It has become a bit of a tradition with the family but we might try somewhere else next year.

SMP: Whatís the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

JS: Get straight into the emails and unfortunately it has become a habit to check Facebook. I used to hate the site, but slowly and largely through work it has me hooked.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

JS: My superpower would be able to code! I am not technical, but wish I was able to help out and build stuff for the site. However, when I see code my mind shuts down.

Photograph of Neil Waller and James Street Co-founders travel website My DestinationRead the interview with cofounder of My Destination Neil Waller

Read about the My Destination MyBBB social media campaign

If you're interested in doing a Social Media Portal (SMP) interview, get in touch.

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