LocalGuiding brings destination tour guides to global audienceNewsBy Kevin May | July 25, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Uruguay-based LocalGuiding, a global marketplace for private tours and local tourist guides.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?LocalGuiding is a global marketplace for private tours and local guides.We focus on tailor made tours: Travelers can contact each tour guide directly to request fully customized tours. Each tour on LocalGuiding is linked to the guides' personal profiles to show travelers exactly who the person is providing the tour and to get directly in contact with the guide.LocalGuiding was founded by Robert Blessing. He worked as a tour guide for an incoming agency. There he wanted to know in advance about the travel interests and wishes of his new clients. But all info he got from the agency was name and meeting point. There was no possibility to contact each other directly. That’s why he started LocalGuiding.In total we are a team of three that due to its passion to travel is spread all over the world (Germany, Uruguay & China). The presence on three continents brings a diverse perspective and helps us to understand the needs of our worldwide customers.What financial support did you have to launch the business?All past investments were made by personal savings. We haven’t yet received any external financing. To continue to grow our user base, build new features and promote LocalGuiding to a wider audience, we are now looking for business angels / seed investors.What problem are you trying to solve?We are mainly trying to solve these four problems:1. How to find a local tour guide all over the world? By providing a global marketplace for local guides / personal tours it’s easy and comfortable to find and book a personal guide and/or tour for your next travel destination that suits the traveler best. All guides and tours are categorized for facilitating the search of an appropriate tour.2. How to know if the guide is reliable and likeable? Each tour on LocalGuiding provides specific information about the guide (personality and interests, years of guiding experience, credentials, reviews from past clients, and specific tour offers). Travelers see who the guide behind the tour is and can establish a direct relationship with him or her. Every guide can be contacted directly to enquire fully personalized tours. Furthermore, guides demonstrate their knowledge by giving ‘local advice’ in our travel question & answer forum while writing ‘travel tips’ to demonstrate their expertise. All of this helps travelers to pre-assess the service quality of the tour guide, and to determine whether or not the guide is likeable.3. How to ensure that the guide provide a good service? To help travelers evaluate the quality and competence of the guide we provide ratings & reviews from previous clients. Our review system also serves as satisfaction guarantee: Tour guides depend on receiving good customer ratings for their tours; otherwise the chances of getting further customers in the future are low. So by booking a tour via LocalGuiding.com travelers are ensured that the guide will be highly motivated to provide good service.4. How to support the local communities? As we connect travelers directly with local tour guides, without any middlemen, the prices at LocalGuiding are lower compared to what travelers would pay through a travel agency. While travelers save money, it directly benefits the local people. It’s a real ‘fair trade’ and a win-win situation for both, traveler and tour guide:Tour Guides can promote their services and sell online directly to travelers, with no middle man involved. The traveler will pay less than through the traditional travel agency, and in addition they can choose the guide they like best.Describe the business, core products and services?LocalGuiding is the place to connect with independent local tour guides around the world, and to arrange personal guided tours. Each tour on LocalGuiding is linked to the guide’s personal profile.LocalGuiding offers travelers willing to book a tour/hire a tour guide: Detailed information about reliability, knowledge and service-quality of the guides.An easy way to find and book the guide and/or tour that suits the traveler best: Tours can be booked directly on the website by just paying a 10% deposit.Authenticity and personality: The fact that each tour has a face and a real person with their own story behind it, makes the tour more authentic and builds confidence and trust for the potential traveler. LocalGuiding offers local tour guides the opportunity to promote themselves and to distribute and sell their tours directly to travelers around the world. Without any obligations and fix costs they can use our site as a global distribution system.Who are your key customers and users at launch?LocalGuiding wants to help tourists who are no longer satisfied with traditional mass tourism.We want travelers to experience the local spirit as it truly is, and not how mass tourism companies masquerade it. People who live at the destination know their surroundings inside out.Only locals can provide you with local activities that are REAL, things to do that don’t appear in any travel guide.Our local guides are independent local tour guides; small businesses that do not have contracts with big incoming agencies and aren’t connected yet to global distribution systems. We are the solution for the small guys.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?LocalGuiding is already online and has at present guides and personal tours from more than 80 different countries worldwide.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?Our main source of income will be a 10% commission we charge on the total tour price. Additional functions and revenue models are in the pipeline.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Management: Highly motivated and multi-lingual team: Possibility to expand LocalGuiding to Spanish, German and Chinese speaking countries.Technology: Self developed and fully customizable system. All interactions work automated; possible to scale easily and fast, as we only provide the infrastructure to connect, but don’t take action in the interaction between travelers and guide.Customer experience: As every tour is linked to the person providing the tour, our products (tours) are highly authentic and personal. Every product has an own face with a story behind it. This creates trust and confidence. Weaknesses: Management: It’s our first project in the travel industrySEO: Although we are offering a niche product (fully customized personal tours) we compete on SEO with big travel players Opportunities: Growing travel activity market: New travel trend to go off the beaten track and experience the destination together with a local; and general trend to leisure and entertainmentGrowing online market: Increasing Internet users: more and more people are booking their vacation online Threats: As a marketplace some travelers may use our services but bypass our paid services.Other travel or tech companies enter in our niche.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Many people told us that the travel industry is too competitive and that it’s too hard to compete with the big travel companies.We agree with that point, but we also think that LocalGuiding doesn’t compete with big tour and activity travel agencies like for example Viator.We focus on small travel businesses; we want to give independent local guides a mouthpiece and market access without any middlemen. We want to help these "small guys" to get a promotion and distribution channel.What is your success metric 12 months from now?New online and offline partnerships; increase the number of guides and tours listed on LocalGuiding; increase the number of inquiries per month for customized tours; increase the number of direct bookings; continuously improve existing features and develop new features. Enter mobile/smartphone market; and find an investor to scale fast. NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.