1. I think that yesterday’s official launch of  Wolfram/Alpha, the self described “computational knowledge engine” for the Web, could have a tremendous effect on how consumers access information about – and eventually book – travel services.  I also think that there is a chance that this could turn out to be as big a seminal event as the creation of the Web itself (no disrespect intended to Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and the countless Web pioneers that followed him).

I also share the opinion of others far smarter than me who have been following the development of Stephen Wolfram’s brainchild that Wolfram/Alpha will not be a Google-killer.  As Nova Spivak wrote in his column in Twine.com several months ago, Wolfram/Alpha is an “…answer engine, not a search engine.” In that regard, unlike Google, which returns documents that might contain the answer you are looking for, Wolfram/Alpha provides users with answers to their queries based on the prodigious aggregation of information and data stored in the engine’s database.

In his article, Spivak elaborated further about Wolfram/Alpha’s capabilities:

“It doesn’t simply return documents that (might) contain the answers, like Google does, and it isn’t just a giant database of knowledge, like the Wikipedia. It doesn’t simply parse natural language and then use that to retrieve documents, like Powerset, for example.

“Instead, Wolfram Alpha actually computes the answers to a wide range of questions – like questions that have factual answers such as “What is the location of Timbuktu?”

“In fact, Wolfram Alpha doesn’t merely answer questions, it also helps users to explore knowledge, data and relationships between things. It can even open up new questions – the “answers” it provides include computed data or facts, plus relevant diagrams, graphs, and links to other related questions and sources. It also can be used to ask questions that are new explorations between relationships, data sets or systems of knowledge. It does not just provide textual answers to questions – it helps you explore ideas and create new knowledge as well.”

It will be very interesting to see how Wolfram/Alpha develops, particularly with respect to its applications in the travel space (for current capabilities, check out the data and knowledge that comes back when you query Frontier Airlines on the site’s transportation example page) and the affiliate marketing industry (I’m personally pondering how travel affiliate marketers and travel suppliers might best commercially leverage this promising computational knowledge engine).

More broadly speaking, I am also curious to see what effect and impact this new technology will have relative to search itself (and in that regard, what Google will do to try and match, exceed or blunt Wolfram/Alpha’s accomplishments, e.g., Google Squared, their approach to structured search which reportedly will be released in beta later this month!).

2. I continue to think that Jaunted is one of the best online travel mags, bar none.  Each edition of their newsletter always feature a great article, novel travelogue or interesting critique, and it’s almost impossible to go more than a couple of days before you get – as the Brits would say – gob smacked by a composition about a travel niche, product or experience that most people involved in the travel trade had not thought about in quite some time.

In Sunday, May 17th’s edition, there’s a great lead story that details how, as a consequence of the nasty recession we’ve been mired in, some of the millions of people who have canceled their traditional air/hotel related summer vacations have turned to camping vacations instead.  Great story, great insights, check it out for yourself…I bet some smart travel affiliate is making money off of this ‘under the radar’ travel trend.

3. I’ve been reflecting about many of the recent pronouncements and projections by executives and interested observers in the travel and affiliate marketing industries that the economic meltdown has ‘bottomed out’, that the travel industry bleeding has stopped and better times are ahead for travel suppliers and travel affiliates alike.

Here are some encouraging statistics stemming from very reputable sources that buttress the claims that we can see the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’:

  • AAA projects that the number of Americans traveling on vacation over the forthcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend will increase by 1.5 percent compared to last year
  • Cruise Lines are filling their ships, and most of the cruise lines have been reporting strong bookings in recent months, albeit at sharp discounts compared to past years
  • The April 2009 Travelhorizons Survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association and market research form Ypartnership projects that 332  million domestic leisure per-person trips will be undertaken by Americans this summer; this equates to the average U.S. consumer taking 2 trips during the summer months, staying about 7 nights away from home and spending more than $900 on their longest summer trip.The study also projects that 54% of all American households are planning to “take at least one leisure trip this summer, compared to 50% as the same time last year.”

Yet, despite the positive nature of these trends, I think that they are merely transitory, and that what we’ll actually experience instead is a ‘double-dip recession‘ that will likely last another 12 -24 months in total.  Hopefully, I’ll be proved wrong, but in either case, the real savvy travel affiliates will be able to make money regardless of which way the economy heads.

How about you…what are your thoughts, views and opinions about the future of the economy?  What do you think travel affiliates should be doing to prepare accordingly for the future?  Let us know…please contact us and share your thoughts.  Thanks!