Seeing the Eiffel Tower is great and all, but travellers these days seem to be more keen on avoiding the tourist traps and exploring and getting to know a city like a local. But with established travel guides and sites often constricted by the types of trips and destinations they can write about, bloggers are sometimes the best source of information when looking for the local experience.
Sydney startup Townske has taken this idea on board, aiming to help travellers get that real experience by providing them with city guides from locals.
Daniel Clark, co-founder of Townske, said the idea for the platform came when he and co-founder Joe Vuong were in New York on business. Like many desperate Australians overseas, they were searching for good coffee and failing, often ending up in a chain café.
“We were going so often that one of the baristas noticed us on the street one day and started up a conversation with us. If that was happening, we were going there way too much and things had to change! So we went on a mission to find the best coffee spots all over the city,” Clark said.
He said that while they did end up discovering good cafés, the apps they were using were too complex and time consuming to use, with their recommendations hit and miss.
“Finding amazing cafes really enriched our NYC experience and our trip was so much better as a result. When we knew where to go, it felt more like we were locals. The existing solutions that we tried to use just didn’t do what we needed, so we started to design the platform we wanted to use.”
Essentially bringing travel bloggers together on one platform, Townske already counts over 1300 user-generated guides from 2000 registered users. These range from travel and city event bloggers and Instagrammers that the Townske team hand-picked, with the ability to create guides set to open to all users when the platform officially launches on June 10.
The guides already on the platform range from an exploration of dessert houses in Jakarta to a guide of Toronto through the lens of an urban planner.
As well as insider tidbits, the guides are underpinned by beautiful photography. Each also includes a map showing all the locations highlighted in the guide, helping travellers map their exploring.
Townske will face a lot of competition from both other startups and established names in the travel space; publications like Lonely Planet are trying to incorporate more local guides, while apps like Wunderwalk are also looking to help travellers find the road less travelled. TripAdvisor could also create competition.
However, Clark said, “Competing products didn’t meet our needs for getting to know a city so we’re building the product that we’d want to use ourselves. We found that the problem with review sites was that you didn’t know who was giving the review and an opinion is only relevant if you trust the person who is giving it. This is one of the key problems that Townske is going to solve and one of our differentiators.”
He also believes that the community Townske is building will help set it apart.
With the development of the platform thus far funded through Clark and Vuong’s established ecommerce business RushFaster, the pair will be looking to find investment and secure partnerships with a number of big brands. Advertising is also being considered for a revenue stream.
For the moment though, the goal for Clark is simple.
“We want to help people have fun and feel like a local in any city in the world.”