The past two years have seen a surge in new companies offering travel advice and trip planning by locals. At the same time about half of these have shut down within a year or two of launch. The idea is that you’ll get good tips from a local whose interests match yours. Better than the typical recommendations you can find at a tourist info office. And this information will be customized to your personal needs and schedule. It’s an interesting sharing economy travel service, but apparently generating demand and building a brand in this space isn’t easy.
Here’s how it works as described by one of the companies offering peer to peer travel advice:
I tried out these services from Your Local Cousin when I was in Santiago last year. It was useful and very affordable: $15 for up to 20 questions answered. Your Local Cousin also offers the creation of a custom itinerary for between 1 and 11 days for $25-$60 depending on length.
These local helpers don’t stop at the standard tourist requests, like where to get a good meal. They can help in some interesting ways, like finding you a recording studio, or helping plan a bachelorette party, or just identifying the best restaurants to match a gluten free, vegan diet. Some of these networks include the option of paying your local to accompany you during your visit, essentially providing private tour guiding services.
One newcomer to this space, MeetnGreetMe is positioning itself to serve higher end customers, including business travelers. They offer high touch concierge services like buying flowers, personal shopping and even arranging medical care, in addition to more typical tourist activities like taking people on a night out on the town. Services on this site seem to average about $20/hour.
Another relatively new service, ViaHero only offers support in Cuba, Japan and Iceland. They offer trip consulting, creation of a personal itinerary, and travel arrangements. These countries are popular but present unique challenges for travelers and so this initial focus makes sense to me.
Another service for peer to peer travel advice, Levart, is focused entirely on Japan. They have a question and answer service where travelers can post their questions. It looks like all the questions in the Tokyo section have received timely responses, though this service isn’t yet used very much. There is a tab for finding locals, but to use it you have to create an account and add info about a trip you’ve planned to Japan. Once I did that all the locals disappeared, so the site may still be a bit buggy. They offer a basic recommendations services package for $4 and higher touch support including arranging babysitters and making reservations for $24. There is also a premium service package for $80.
There are a few other companies offering related services. Like connecting travelers with one another. But as many companies have shut down as have launched in the past year. And while I find these services intriguing, I generally prefer to plan my own trips and get advice from friends. But I’m definitely not the typical traveler, so I can’t say whether there will ultimately be a big enough market to sustain these companies into profitability.