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Virtual Tourist, commonly referred to as VT, is a travel website that provides user-generated travel reviews, travel photos, and travel advice. The information provided is free. Advertising is the website’s primary source of revenue. Over one million people are registered as members; the site also contains over one million reviews and over three million photos. Members often write informative articles for the site and organize community meetings and reunions.
Founded in 1999, the original purpose of Virtual Tourist was to publish travel tips and suggestions created by actual sightseers as opposed to travel agencies or the destinations themselves. TripAdvisor Media Group purchased the company in 2008. Virtual Tourist resembles many other social networking sites: members have personal pages that allow them to post profile pictures, share biographical information, contact other members, write reviews of various destinations, and display photos from trips they have taken. This site also contains a forum page where members can start threads to get tips or travel info from any registered members of the community. It should be noted that due to the fact that the site and most of its members are based in the United States, the writing style and reviews might be based more on the perspective of American tourists.
The interactive nature of the site often leads to members organizing trips together or having local meetings. Some of these meet ups may be organized by Virtual Tourist itself. Sometimes the site’s top ten lists related to travel draw mainstream media attention and even government officials of the locales being discussed because of their humor, creativity, or characterization of the area.
Virtual Tourist has several features with facilitate use of the site. First, the Travel Guide organizes all reviews and tips submitted by users according to the location and other categories like hotels, shopping, things to do, and local customs. Members rate these tips and reviews a scale ranging from one to ten based on utility. Additionally, members can use a feature called Trip Planner to identify places of interest, read and save reviews, and print the information out in the form of an itinerary — the sheer volume of available information may require users to spend a lot of time searching however. The site allows members to scour multiple travel sites in order to find hotels, airfare, and transportation deals while booking trips.