“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu
That may be true, but world traveler Paul Kurkulis wonders, what would happen if travelers had access to on-demand information on their journeys?
Instead of finding awesome eats by happenstance (or sticking to chain restaurants and hotels because that’s all you know), what if travelers had a friend in every city who could give them in-depth information on the best places to eat or the best times to visit the coolest attractions?
Taking a vacation is one of the reputedly best remedies for stress. A week of sipping cold drinks on the beach goes a long way in making vacationers forget about work and family woes.
Americans are notorious for skipping out on their vacation days. On average, they leave four days a year unused. And millennials, surprisingly, are among the worst at letting vacation slip or, at the very least, feeling bad about taking a few days off.
But what if pre-vacation (the planning stage) is making an actual vacation less attractive? For starters, the average vacation costs $1,145 per person (for a family of four, that’s $4,580), and the average vacation lasts four days. The cost per day? Nearly $300 a person.
Another factor? Planning the trip itself. Finding good travel info is hard. Would-be travelers sift through Yelp’s 70 million reviews or the 4,000 new reviews posted per hour on TripAdvisor. And finding that one-of-a-kind experience millennials are looking for on a trip? Easier said than done.
Too Bad There Isn’t An App For That
Paul, his wife, and some friends experienced some of these dilemmas personally on a jaunt to New Orleans. After an evening of dinner and drinks, they wanted to keep the party going, but they didn’t know where else to go.
All eight tourists jumped on their smartphones to figure out what to do next. One used Facebook, one tried TripAdvisor, another phoned a friend (but couldn’t get a hold of them).
They all agreed that a one stop on-demand app connecting them with a New Orleans local would make their lives much easier.
That’s when Paul and his wife looked at each other and knew they had a business idea in the making.
Connecting Travelers With Local Experts
That idea became Savvy Amigo, an app Paul and his partners Jarka Duba and Nelson Riley from ZG Collective hired Gigster to build. The goal? Connect travelers to a savvy amigo–a local–in all parts of the world.
Once a user has signed up, they can search the profiles of locals in the region they plan to visit. For instance, a book lover traveling with her pet Chihuahua to Salt Lake City could search for a local with books and pets as an interest.
When she finds a profile with similar interests to hers she can, for a small fee, submit a question like “what’s the best dog park in Salt Lake?” or “where are the most interesting second hand book stores?”
The savvy amigo receives a notification and can either take or ignore the question. Not until after the traveler receives a response and rates it as good does the savvy amigo get paid.
Amigos with good reputations on the app will even be available for tourists to call at set times to get immediate answers to questions.
Monetizing Local Knowledge
Locals have know a lot about their region. They know the best restaurants, the fun things to do and the best family-friendly attractions.
That resource is going largely untapped by the travel industry. Unlike other travel apps and websites, Savvy Amigo overcomes the problem of disconnected data by bringing people back into the equation.
“A local,” says Nelson Riley, “is uniquely capable of answering time-sensitive, highly-contextual, open-ended questions.” Connecting with another human allows travelers to get input on their itineraries and customized travel information instead of disordered reviews that other travel apps offer.
Locals are motivated to provide good information for two reasons: 1) Savvy Amigo holds payment in escrow until the traveler confirms they sincerely gave advice and 2) there’s a ratings and feedback system. Poor ratings mean their profiles are given lower visibility in search results.
Savvy Amigo vets locals by requiring them to answer 5 real travel questions before their first paid question. This process helps Savvy Amigo ensure locals are providing accurate and thorough advice to travelers.
It turns out that locals love to help out users, and not because of a chance to earn some extra cash. The locals in the focus groups, led by Paul and ZG Collective, were motivated by a genuine desire to help. They are more than willing to invest a small amount of time to improve someone else’s experience in their region.
Considering the high cost of a vacation, the small fee Savvy Amigo charges users is a good investment. Why waste those four precious days of vacation googling what to do next in New Orleans, Beijing, or Salt Lake City? With Savvy Amigo users can get a fast response from someone who knows what they are talking about.
A New Marketplace
Savvy Amigo is creating a marketplace where there was no marketplace before. It’s monetizing a person’s knowledge of a certain region and helping travelers connect with amazing experiences.
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