Experiential Travel

Travel is becoming a big money spinner across the world. While India is just waking up to its untapped potential in tourism sector, there are a lot of new concepts are being experimented in this space. Enabled by Internet, there are lots of new concepts coming up in the travel space. Experiential travel is the new trend in travel space after the site seeing ind of travelling has been exhausted. People want to travel for experiencing a new space and not just looking at the landmark monuments. They want to see how the locals live, what they eat and how they are different or similar to their own cultures.

About a decade ago, couchsurfing started a trend by providing travelers an opportunity to stay with locals – and their model involved no commerce, so it was the goodwill of a host to accommodate guest in their homes. Since guests paid nothing, there was no expectation whatsoever they could have from the hosts – they had to take whatever the hosts offered. Then came the concepts like AirBnB, where people could rent out extra spaces in their home and since there was a fee – the expectations were set accordingly. Hosts would end up sharing a bit of their day to day lives with the guests, but it primarily became an alternative to hotels.

Withlocals – a Netherlands based company has just launched a new paradigm for travelers, by giving them options to choose smaller activities with the hosts. They are currently present in 8 Asian countries and soon planning to launch in India – though I think put together India may be bigger than all these 8 countries. They have activities under three categories:

  1. Eat with Locals
  2. Tours with Locals
  3. Activities with Locals

While I am sure Eat with Locals is their most popular category – as most travelers crave to eat the local food, and just about anyone in the destination can provide that experience. It is also a no-brainer, no stress activity that all of us invariably enjoy doing. What I am excited about this is the other two activities – a knowledgeable local person can really enhance your experience of visiting a place. they usually end up showing you what is not mentioned in the guide books – like small eatery where the locals go or some festivals or rituals that usually remain out of bound for visitors.

The third category – Activities with Locals looks the most promising – I checked few activities on their website and found some very interesting results like Fruit & Vegetable Carving  or a Jewelry course in Thailand, Vintage Treasure Hunt in Singapore, Rock Climbing in Malaysia, Music Jam Sessions in Nepal, Plucking tea leaves in or visiting a Snake House in Sri Lanka.

You can search activities based on various parameters like the location, price, time required or the number of people involved. I am sure these selection parameters would grow as the concept takes off. They also employ local ambassadors to curate & verify the hosts and the experiences. I think it is a great model as this does not alienate the locals and also helps them gain some employment. The prices seem reasonable. Withlocal takes a 20% commission on the fee from the guests, and I think it is a reasonable revenue model for both the platform and the hosts.

I am keen to see the kind of unique experiences India is going to add to this list.

Anuradha Goyal