Travelfish: 2012 in review

Overnight rain here in Bali washed most of the pungent smoke out of the air from last night’s fireworks extravaganza and it looks like we’re settling in for one of those overcast with occasional shower type days, custom-designed for laying in bed doing not much at all. A contemplative day.

So with that in mind, here’s a bit of contemplation on where 2012 took Travefish.org.

This has been, without doubt, our busiest year ever and the site has grown beyond our expectations, through hard work, having an excellent team of writers and, without doubt, a bit of good fortune thrown in here and there.

Through the year, Samantha, as editor in chief, took over all editorial responsibilities of the site and managed our growing team of freelance correspondents, currently 19 in total, who are based across the region. We also took on our first staff writer, David.

Through the year we brought a number of our writers to Bali individually for a weeklong workshop, where we showed them more of the inner workings and tried to better explain the whats, hows and most importantly, whys of how things get done at Travelfish. In some cases, this gave us our first opportunity to meet people who had been working with us for long periods of time, and in all cases we think it was a great learning experience for everyone.

Personally I managed to fit in an uncomfortably frequent travel schedule, with nine trips to Malaysia, four to Thailand, three to Singapore and one apiece to Vietnam and Cambodia — yes Laos, I’ve not forgotten you — I’ll see you soon!

Between my and David’s travels along with the correspondents’ regular contributions to the Travelfish blogs, we published more than 1,100 stories and 34 features. Vast amounts of our destination research was also either updated or expanded, with Java and sections of Malaysia finally getting the attention they deserve. Yet there is plenty more to do — you should see the input queue! We also added our 5,500th property review in December 2012.

With all this new material we needed to take a far more structured approach to getting it from us to you. An editorial schedule appeared, and we made information available via Facebook and Twitter (and to a far lesser extent, Google+).

Samantha’s efforts with Facebook grew our overall likes to more than 11,500 (from 7,000 at the start of the year) and while we at times felt stymied by Facebook’s policies, we’ve rolled with the punches and continue to consider it an important channel for organic growth.

My Twitter addiction continues to grow at a gangrenous rate, with almost 13,000 followers, most of them possibly real (!). I thank you all for putting up with my blathering — well those who haven’t (justifiably) muted me anyway. The Travelfish Twitter stream is 100% me with a dash of Travelfish thrown in — nothing constructed. I think it’s useful to know, love and/or hate who the people are behind a brand — I hope most of you are in the former!

We also moved the on-again off-again newsletter to a firm, well almost firm, Monday weekly schedule and this has seen our email list grow by about 75% over the year. While it is tedious to do, people seem to love it — it’s the only thing we do where if we run late, real people actually email or tweet us asking where it is. We love you all :) Not a subscriber? You can sign-up here.

At the very tail end of 2012 we finally made some changes to the Travelfish forum, hoping to make it both easier to use for existing members and more enticing for potential new members. We’re allowing members to add in their social networks to better allow them to find like-minded travelling souls and we’ll be adding more features in the coming weeks.

Numbers wise, Travelfish.org saw continued steady growth traffic wise, receiving almost 8,000,000 visits in the year (up around 45% on 2011) and more than 20,000,000 pageviews (up about 20% on 2011). While member numbers continue to grow, we did see fewer new members compared to the year before (nice one Facebook!). We’ll be working hard to grow this further in 2013 by creating yet more reasons to make it worthwhile to become a Travelfish member.

Revenue-wise, despite losing long-time advertiser AirAsia in the first half of the year, overall revenue grew by about 70% and we believe we’re well positioned financially for 2013 and beyond. This is a great relief and has been a long time coming particularly as we adhere to a strict policy of never taking freebies.

So what does 2013 hold for Travelfish?

To a large extent, more of the same really. We’ll continue to build upon and add to the depth of our destination coverage. With seven writers based in Thailand alone, we have a lot of new material planned. We’re finally making progress filling out our Malaysia coverage and if you thought you heard a lot about Indonesia from us in 2012, you ain’t heard nothing yet. Indonesia is where independent travel is at! (We get a lot of people asking about The Philippines and Burma, and while we’d love to add them, 2013 won’t be the year this happens.)

This new year will also see us reinvigorate our existing iPhone apps, while iPad and Kindle users should (hopefully) have something to get pretty excited about soon as we finally firm up a concept we’ve been experimenting with for much of 2012.

But most importantly, what we’ll be concentrating on doing more than anything else, is helping travellers get the most out of their travels to Southeast Asia.

Because we want travellers to love Southeast Asia as much as we do.

Best wishes for a great 2013 to you all, thanks for your support, and good, safe travels,

Stuart McDonald
Head Chef
Travelfish.org