Vayable was one of the first peer-to-peer activity platforms with a presence in many countries around the world. And after nearly 10 years in operation, Vayable closed its virtual doors in November 2019. Local hosts on Vayable offered a wide range of tours and experiences. These included in-home meals, art activities, and custom tours.
The Vayable founder, Jamie Wong, didn’t offer a public statement on the reasons behind the company’s failure. But she moved on to work with a VC firm that invests in early-stage consumer tech companies. Pine5 Ventures invests in some sharing economy travel start ups including Traveling Spoon. Traveling Spoon offers private meals and cooking classes, basically in a subset of the Vayable business space.
What’s the lesson in this? I’d say that peer-to-peer activities is a difficult business space. Sourcing sufficient independent hosts, and marketing these to tourists is just the first step. There’s also the question of qualify control on a platform where anyone can decide to offer an experience. There is increasing demand for “authentic” “local” experiences from travelers. But this doesn’t mean authentically late in a country where punctuality is not valued. Nor does it mean authentically cheap in poor countries. I think the demand for unique peer-to-peer activities will continue to grow. But for companies marketing to this demand will need to walk the line between consumer expectations and the realities of an online marketplace.
In related news: ToursByLocals just closed $25 million in funding to expand its peer-to-peer business connecting travelers with locals. Since 2008 ToursByLocals has operated (and grown dramatically) without outside funding. Like Traveling Spoon, ToursByLocals curates its guides, attempting to ensure only high quality experiences for travelers. There are over 30,000 tours from more than 4000 guides on the ToursByLocals platform. ToursByLocals success offers a counterpoint to the Vayable failure.