The last time I was in Berlin, I decided not to stay in a hotel and give Airbnb a go. I stayed at Claudia’s apartment in Kreuzberg. I had my own room, a free bike and the chance to get to know Claudia and her flatmate Linn, who were nice enough to give me plenty of tips on the neighbourhood. My experience at Claudia’s was extremely good and, up to that point, I thought that was the farthest you could go in ‘living like a local’.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across Plus One Berlin, a website not only offering accommodation in the hip neighbourhood of Kreuzkölln, but adding coolness to the service by giving you the chance to book, together with a studio, a local from a list of ‘creative’ people living in the area and willing to spend time with you, for 120 Euros per night.
Plus One Berlin unveils a new tendency in the travel industry that could threaten the traditional guided tours offered by equally traditional travel companies. Why join a standard, pre-organized and oftenly packed-with-people tour if you can have your personal guide that skips the touristy places and restaurants and, if you’re lucky enough, becomes a friend?
At Vayable.com they believe so much in this philosophy that they launched a website where people can offer themselves as guides. Are you a happy hour expert in Milan,Italy? You can create your own all-you-can-eat tour. Are you a passionate bookworm in Portland? You can show people around your favourite bookstores. And – here’s the business idea – be paid for it.
Vayable founder and CEO Jamie Wong recalls how it all started:
It was on a trip to Morocco during my semester abroad in Madrid. I met a man in a carpet shop who offered to take me and my three travel companions into the Sahara to do a 5 day camel trek with his cousin, the chief of a caravan tribe. We had been looking for a more affordable and authentic way of visiting the desert, so we took him up on it. [...] I decided after that I would no longer travel the beaten path but rather seek out unique experiences provided by locals in the community.
Does it work?
We have about 1500 active guides on our platform offering experiences and the people purchasing experiences have already grown to ten times that in 2011. Vayable absolutely represents a new trend toward customization, social buying, and individual empowerment. The old ways of cookie-cutter travel are over. It’s no longer up to the industry to decide what’s good travel, it’s the traveler himself/herself defining this and watching the market follow.
Vayable is, indeed, just the tip of the iceberg. Many are the websites launched to offer tailor made travel experiences, such as mycreativetours.com, toursbylocals.com, bealocal.com and the Berlin based gidsy.com, all promoting tours organized by ‘real people’.
As cool as it sounds, the big question remains: Would you do it? Would you join such tours and/or create your tailor-made travel experience to sell? I’m not sure about my answer, but I’d definitely give Plus One Berlin a go.