August 7, 2015
Two of the most exciting trends of the 2000s, digital and hyperlocal, are now blending together in 2015, with an increasing number of apps, startups, and re-forming companies helping travelers use their tech tools to gain immediate local flavor and an enhanced experience while abroad.
“There are several new mobile apps that are striving to bring local expert advice to the traveler when they most need it — either in-market or prior to travel. Hotel Tonight has launched local Aces and Urban Buddy is in beta to enable hotels to offer customers their local experts. This service will come but it depends tremendously on distribution by the big OTA’s,” Jim Sherman, CEO of Sherman’s Travel.
The ‘digital hyperlocal’ movement begins while booking, with new options for how to ‘stay local.’ Airbnb began the trend of staying in beautiful local apartments rather than paying through the nose for stuffy hotels and it has grown into a full-blown industry. Now, travelers can customize and localize their stay to their very own flavor; misterb&b, for example, caters to gay customers who seek to stay at the abode of a local LGBT-friendly host.
“As soon as you book your stay on misterbnb, your local host can share his favorite gay hotspots, reply to all your questions about the local scene and help you feel home even before arriving in the city,” said Matt Joust, CEO of misterb&b.
Once landed and situated – presumably in their tailored-experience local apartment – digital hyperlocal travelers now have tech tools to create a local feed of experiences. UrbanBuddy, which launched in Barcelona before traveling to New York, connects travelers who use the app with locals who sign up to provide tips, directions, feedback, and commentary in real-time through a one-on-one conversations. Now, backpacking college students who hitchhike a ride on the autobahn with a trucker aren’t the only ones getting that required taste of the authentic.
“I hate search, especially while traveling. I’d rather turn to my friends for answers because I know they will not lead me astray (not to mention wasting my time sifting through reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor). The problem is that I don’t have friends in every city – that’s why I created UrbanBuddy. We find the most knowledgeable locals and allow you to ask them questions in realtime. It’s like having a best friend everywhere you go,” said Paul Brogna, CEO of Urban Buddy.
Don’t worry, old-school folk: the circa-1990 travel-agency, limo-from-the-hotel, concierge-reservation experience is still available for the right buyer. But now savvy travelers can, as I did myself recently, book their locals-run guesthouse or apartment, query their hosts’ tips, then supplement them through locals’ commentary to create the most authentic experience – or, in my case, the most authentic experience possible when you speak three words in the local tongue. It’s a brave new world.
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