The redesigned site will place greater emphasis on consumer input, travel tools, and blogs. A centerpiece will be the new Flight Center, which will include a flight tracker, departure delays map, Wi-Fi locator, and information on fares and airline mileage programs.
Touted under the tagline "Explore. Go. Share.," the refurbished travel site also encompasses a batch of new blogs. They include The Golfer's World; Just Back From, which will include memorable stories and tips from USAToday travel writers recently back from trips; Amazing Race, which will provide travel tips and information based on the far-flung journeys of contestants in the CBS reality show; and a cruise-related blog to be introduced by month's end.
Embracing the user-created content trend, blogs and other sections on the site will more prominently feature comments and feedback from readers. "We're taking the inclusion of consumer comments and really bringing that to the fore so there's a lot more user interaction," said Jeff Webber, publisher of USAToday.com.
The goal is to provide a more balanced mix of expert advice from its staff writers with the opinions and insights of travel consumers, he said.
USAToday.com's travel site drew 677,000 unique visitors in August, according to comScore MediaMetrix. While citing a higher traffic figure, Webber said he believes the changes will nevertheless result in "considerably more" traffic to the site.
Around the new travel site features, USAToday.com is counting on a set of new sponsorships and ad placements to boost revenue. That effort includes offering exclusive sponsorships for its Flight Center and redesigned Travelers Toolbox feature as well as on its Today in the Sky airport blog.
Within the interactive maps that accompany the travel site's 28 city guides, travel marketers will also have the chance to direct readers to their locations. Marriott International, for instance, could sponsor a map indicating the locations of all its hotels in Chicago. Webber said it is still being determined whether the map sponsorships will be offered on a national basis as well as by city.
In a new twist, USAToday.com will also allow advertisers to sponsor RSS feeds within the travel page of a reader's personalized MyUSAToday site. The feed can provide more information on a marketer's products or services or on special travel offers.
In a more traditional vein, the travel section's front page will also feature a new expandable billboard unit for advertisers seeking to make a splash.