Skift Take

More companies want to own the entire travel journey and that means getting into the weeds of what travelers do while they're traveling. But tours and activities is hardly an easy sector to enter; throw in so-called expert locals with little tourism training and you're in murky waters.


Owning the entire customer journey is a trend playing out across all sectors of travel, and helping travelers with what to do when they arrive in their destinations is the part of the journey that brands are struggling with.

Big brands like Expedia and TripAdvisor have made some bets on tours and activities and do fine selling access to big attractions, while Airbnb is promising something more local that’s in line with its brand promise.

Like Airbnb, this week’s startups are focusing on the local, ”authentic” experiences that want travelers to get out of their rooms and into neighborhoods.

That’s why this week we’re highlighting the variety of models proposed by startups for using locals as tour guides, from on-demand guides to quasi-travel agents living in destinations a traveler will visit. The key challenge for any startup entering this space is standardization and efficiency: how do you create experiences of the same quality without a central nervous system for tour guides to flow from? And, how do you do that efficiently, such as matching up guides with multiple people based on similar requests? Also, how to you get a solid consumer base that cares about your product?


Wandaroo is a marketplace that helps travelers discover and book activities hosted by locals.

>>SkiftTake: An interesting line from Wandaroo’s landing page — “Life’s better when you don’t just skim the surface.” Is it? In some destinations yes and in many others no. Deciding which destinations that philosophy works for is the challenge for Wandaroo and other startups like it.


OrderTrip crowdsources locals as tour guides. Travelers post an itinerary and a local can either accept that itinerary or post their own.

>>SkiftTake: Crowdsouring anything always comes with a risk, and particularly when you’re dealing with experiences that come with certain expectations.


Zeeno is a mobile app that instantly connects travelers with locals who design and guide unique tours. Guides are matched based on a traveler’s location and personal preferences, with no advanced booking required.

>>SkiftTake: Zeeno is trying to enter the on-demand economy and the tours and activities should be more instantly bookable and instantaneous than it is. But, like Zeeno, will locals be prepared to offer a tour or product on the go that’s customized and well-planned?


Your Local Cousin offers hundreds of local experts in more than 100 destinations around the world that customize tour itineraries. The local guides are paid 80 percent of the revenue from each tour or activity that they lead.

>>SkiftTake: Your Local Cousin is basically your travel agent for everything that would come after you book travel with a travel agent or online such as booking tours and activities. Though there’s a gap in this and most other trip-planning startups’ models– these companies want to help you plan your trip but not the entire journey. Many travelers would much rather deal with one company or person to book their flight, hotel and local activities than multiple parties.


SideStory is a platform that lets travelers book tours and activities with local photographers or chefs, for example, that help show alternative sides to a destination.

>>SkiftTake: Hands down, travelers want experiences like these. They just want to know what to expect which can be difficult to define in situations like SideStory.

For all of our SkiftSeedlings collection, check out our archives here.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: skiftseedlings, startups

Up Next

Loading next stories