Food tourism is the new black, or rock'n'roll, or something... apparently. And attempting to seize on that trend is FoodieTrip, a New York, US-based startup.
The company has created a marketplace for tourists to find "extraordinary food-focused experiences", with content in the form of more than 200 tours coming in from around 75 cities in 38 countries.
The idea is that travellers can book a food tour guide for when they arrive in a destination and, inevitably, "eat like a local".
For guides, FoodieTrip is free to list and then a 5% commission on every booking made through the platform.
The startup also automatically adds a 15% service fee on top of each tour for its own fee.
Q&A with CEO Matan Magril:
What problem does your business solve?
Today’s traveler is sick of getting stuck at tourist traps while in destination.
In fact, travelers are hungry to explore behind the scenes of any given destination, and they’re using culturally specific food to discover and understand the world like never before.
That being said, three obstacles make eating like locals extremely difficult:
- There isn’t a single online platform which aggregates authentic culinary experiences and local gastronomy gems. This results in hours of pre-trip research on behalf of consumers.
- Cultural gaps ranging from language barriers to local dish knowledge.
- Safety concerns in the form of poor food preparation, getting lost, ripped off, etc.
We founded FoodieTrip to resolve these hurdles and because we believe that tasting the distinct foods and drinks of a destination with local informed guides is absolutely essential to experiencing it.
As such, we set up first online marketplace connecting hungry travelers with local food guides for once in a lifetime culinary adventures.
With unique gastronomy experiences in over 75 international cities ranging from speakeasy excursions in NYC to dumpling tastings in Xian, foodies can now eat like locals everywhere.
Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?
We are a team of six full time employees, three interns and two freelancers.
Both Matan Magril (CEO) and Vladimir Borisov (Marketing) are seasoned entrepreneurs with strong track records of setting up B2C communities.
Between the two of us we have five startups, two exits, two fully functioning businesses, and one bust.
Whether it’s our developers (Anya & Alex) our project manager (Kiara) or our user acquisition expert (Kobi) we’ve worked with each previously and have hand picked an intelligent team that was fully functioning from day one.
We’ve raised $175,000 in pre-seed and are currently actively raising $500,000
Marketplace structure. Unlike our competitors who take up to 30% commission from service providers we’ve transferred a portion of our fee to consumers.
We take a 15% service fee from travelers on top of listed tour prices. We take a 5% hosting fee from guides only once the booking is complete.
Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
Culinary tourism is a huge industry, currently estimated at $150 billion annually. Our target demographic, Millennials, is estimated to spend $170 billion annually on travel by 2020.
Research says 80% of American travelers spend more on food and beverage than any other expenditure (accommodation, flights, etc) while traveling.
At the same time, 30% of American travelers are now apparently choosing their next travel destination based ONLY on the availability of culinary experiences.
The experiential food travel market keeps growing in size but remains fragmented for both consumers and service providers.
External validation? (Examples: The incubators/accelerators you have been accepted to, the mentors who are advising you, the number of customers you’ve signed, the marketing partner deals you’ve made, the skills/connections of your founders, etc.)
We’re seeing a 20% MoM guide growth. Currently, we have over 220 unique experiences in 75 cities. Also seeing a 15% MoM growth in monthly active users.
FoodieTrip was recently chosen to participate in SOSV backed accelerator, Food-X where we will complete an intensive 14-week program, receive funding, workspace, daily coaching, and expert-led sessions from a deep mentor network, which includes Super Angel David Rose, Blue Hill’s Dan Barber, Food Tank’s Danielle Nierenberg, and Food + Tech Connect’s Danielle Gould.
We were chosen from over 500 applicants.
There are some interesting things to consider when it comes to so-called food tourism businesses such as FoodieTrip.
First, the consumer travel startup angle (again).
FoodieTrip needs users, not least to make money for itself to survive but also enough for its tour hosts to want to list their services on the site.
Yet, as a niche service (culinary tours are, despite what the cheerleaders say, relatively low volume in nature compared to, say, wanting a ticket to a world famous museum), FoodieTrip has an opportunity to work the world of search to its advantage with unique content on the site and unique products to sell.
But it will need a fair amount of marketing muscle to get people in the front door. And, let's face it, there's nothing to stop a site such as TripAdvisor, which is supposedly all about the "entire trip" these days, simply ramping up its own efforts in the area.
The other area to ponder is the very idea that food tourism is some kind of huge trend in global tourism - something that FoodieTrip is banking on.
Is it really?
It could be argued that food tourism is a niche invented by people with an interest in pretending such niches are maintream.
Sure, it is perhaps popular amongst subsets of tourists looking for so-called "authentic experiences", but global tourism - away from the experiential elites - works in a different way.
Do millions of travellers head to the beaches of Southern Europe because of the cuisine, or spend time on that trip pondering which food tour to go on?
Not sure either of those scenarios are true.
Food is obviously an important and enjoyable part of the travel experience (everyone's gotta eat), but the reality - at scale - is eating on a trip is something that happens because people have to do it.