This was a conversation I was having with a friend today. It's an odd one. The fact of the matter is that nothing should be able to compensate for the experience of traveling, particularly when you are sitting behind a computer. Yet travel does so well online. Price comparison, review website, social networks, photo and video sharing. Why?
As far as I can determine there are two key reasons:
Firstly there is such a large lead in time with travel that you have plenty of time to learn and research about the place you're going. Also, the fact that it is such a relatively large financial outlay means that people are going to spend more time preparing and researching than they would if they were picking up a new digital camera. Thus we have the proliferation of price comparison, booking services, and online guide books.
However, this doesn't explain why people are so generous in donating their time and energy by sharing their own experiences. For me the answer here lies in the answer to a much greater question. What does it mean to travel? Travel is about connecting with new people, learning about new cultures and more generally being nice to your common brothers and sisters. This is why the social travel websites do so well. Share experiences through photo and video sites, stay connected with the people you meet using social networking, and help others out through reviews and travel tips.
When you think about travel and the net in this way it makes a whole lot of sense. But what do I know, why do you think travel is so successful online?