The authentic experience: not just for the true adventurer

‘Collaborative consumption’ may be the latest buzz words on the lips of the industry, but intrepid travellers have long sought out authentic experiences. Today the Internet has broadened the range of these experiences and made them far more accessible to a much wider audience. Berlin-based Gidsy is taking part, writes Ritesh Gupta

Fancy a holiday? How about a walking tour guided by locals, or a nature hike with wild cavemen? Maybe you want a tour where exclusive restaurants appear out of nowhere and are hosted by top chefs. If this excites you take a look at Berlin-based Gidsy, a a community marketplace for unique, authentic experiences. The site is yet another example of the growing trend towards so-called ‘collaborative consumption’.

How it works

At Gidsy, organisers can create a listing for an activity by providing descriptions, photos and other details. When they have scheduled some events in their activity calendar, users can book these activities through Gidsy’s payment system. The objective is simple: let users discover, offer and book unique experiences. The company says a user is likely to be interested as he or she is being offered a special or an unexpected activity.

Launched in November last year, in the same way collaborative home or apartment rentals have developed, the site  features various options for hosting, managing and improving a profile on an ongoing basis. Gidsy does not function as an agent; it simply enables a contract between someone booking an activity and someone hosting it.

Some of the features are as follows:

  • book real activities for you and your friends

  • pay with credit card or Paypal – additional payment methods are coming soon

  • invite your friends for activities or share your experiences with them

  • host activities and start scheduling events

  • leave reviews, if you have been to an activity

“The interesting thing is that we’re not only attracting travellers, but also people who like to explore their city and neighbourhoods,” says Berlin-based Edial Dekker, Gidsy’s co-founder and CEO.

“One of the things we realise is how `social’ Gidsy is. Because people with similar interests come together, it’s great to witness what happens then,” he says.

Some people use Gidsy to learn new things and other people are using Gidsy to meet other people.

“It’s great how Gidsy can facilitate in connecting people together. In the end, it’s all about creating a value layer that can facilitate meaningful connections between people,” added Dekker.

Exciting times

Although ventures that introduce the human factor once travellers arrive at a destination have been around for a while, the Internet has made these far broader, more accessible and easy to market to a much wider range of people. For specialists in the short-term or  vacation rentals’ category, these online ventures offer a platform where travellers connect with people in all corners of the world who live locally and can offer their accommodation for temporary stays.

Dekker believes that today we are really “beginning to see how technology is truly disrupting the travel industry”.

Lucky for Gidsy and his team, they are not “focused on solving a problem, but instead addressing a huge opportunity”.

He says connecting people, offering a new way to travel and giving access to local knowledge and experiences is all part of the plan. “One of the most important things that we focus on is creating a community that is based around trust. And that requires a lot of tinkering, experimenting and technology,” says Dekker.

He refers to a quote by Kevin Kelly’s book New Rules for the New Economy to accentuate this further: ‘It starts with chips and ends with trust.’ In essence then his view is that the network economy is founded on technology, but can only be built on relationships (For more on the Network Economy, click here).

Early this year, Gidsy raised $1.2 million in a round led by Sunstone Capital. As a result of this it now has online sites in New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, San Francisco and London.  

According to Dekker for the moment at least, they are “not focused on making money”.  But the business model, he says, is simple: on every booking made on Gidsy, we charge a 10% service fee.

With this service fee, the company covers transaction costs, offers customer support, makes sure that the transaction is safe and offers tools that make it easy for people to organise activities.

On trend

No matter which segment users shop in, they do care about the social element of the peer-to-peer experience and also about value. “The sharing economy is a very new idea, and there have been very few companies that have nailed this. We’re listening very carefully to our community and are constantly improving things and adding new features. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’re only at the very beginning,” says Dekker.

The company believes one of the biggest challenges is disrupting a very traditional, fragmented industry. ”That is what makes it interesting: we’re trying to change a big distribution system,” says Dekker.

Going forward, the company believes that simplicity is going to be the key. “Making Gidsy simpler is something we’re working on every day to allow many different people to use it,” says Dekker.

It’s not just about design. It’s everything: design, technology and community. This also means have a good team.

Looking to the future, Dekker is non-committal: “We’re just at the beginning of the `collaborative travel movement’ but trust, safety and new ways of distributing resources will continue to play a huge role.” 

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