GreatGuides is a marketplace to connect adventure travelers with adventure guides. Guides create and control their itineraries and are qualified based on skills, wilderness experience, past customer ratings and reviews.
Founded in 2018, GreatGuides lets guides manage their own pricing and lets them keep up to 90% of trip fees.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
GreatGuides is a marketplace for adventure seekers to to directly connect with adventure guides. Guides can set up their profiles, their trips, schedules, and payment options. Adventure travelers can look up guides based on their skills, ratings, trip histories and customer reviews.
Guides are qualified by GreatGuides based on their skills, wilderness experience, past customer ratings and reviews. Guides working with tour operators on average get anywhere from 20% to 60% of the trip fees. GreatGuides aims to disrupt the fast‐growing adventure travel industry by letting guides manage their pricing and letting them keep up to 90% of the trip fees. There are no sign‐up fees. The more trips booked by a guide, the larger the portion of the fees they get to keep.
The GreatGuides platform is built on NodeJS server technology with ReactJS in the front end and GraphQL architecture on Prisma on the backend. The application is hosted on AWS.
What inspired you to create this company?
In 2011, I went a multi-day trekking adventure in the Ladakh and Zanskar region of Northern India. It took me a lot of research to find accomplished guides that were local to Ladakh and were recommended by other travelers. I wanted to ensure that the guides were trustworthy for me to spend 11 days in the wilderness.
I learned a lot about the guides in those 11 days and their challenges and lack of business prospects as an adventure guide. I wanted to build a site that would benefit these guides and build a lasting experience for travelers. The idea stayed with me for a number of years till finally, in early 2018, I started researching into adventure travel.
There is tremendous growth worldwide in the number of adventure travelers (30% in the United States alone as per ATTA’s Adventure Tourism Market Study). I put all my efforts and self‐funded the efforts to build out the GreatGuides platform.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
- Strengths – We facilitate direct connections between the travelers and the guide from the time the booking is made. This is a differentiator than other adventure travel platforms where you may not meet the guide until you get to the location.
- Weaknesses – Adventure travel is a pre‐planned activity and travelers are used to the traditional tour operator model. It takes time to build trust with a new platform.
- Opportunities – As per ATTA’s research, it is estimated that the worldwide adventure tourism compound annual growth rate will reach up to 46% by 2020. The trend has continued since 2011 with 79% of tourism boards reporting that adventure tourism has started to grow in their national market.
- Threats – Major operators such as Airbnb and Google are focusing more on adventure travel. This will threaten smaller operators
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
Most travelers on guided trips get to know their guides really well for years after their trips. That is why we focus on the guide’s story and their expertise. We alleviate the concerns travelers have about traveling to remote locations without knowing who they will be spending their time and money on.
Adventure travelers care about where their money is being spent. GreatGuides ensures that the majority of the trip revenue goes to the guide and benefits the local region.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
Our initial focus is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We are just starting with building traffic from search engine and display marketing.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
Over the next 12 months, we’ll develop and execute an outreach campaign to travel boards in the top geographies we are targeting and top-rated destinations for the U.S. adventure traveler (New Zealand, Australia, South America, Western Europe).
We will also leverage travel organizations such as ATTA, as well as national and regional tourism organizations.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We talked to a number of guides and adventure guide experts from around the world to understand their pain points. Guides want to be on the field and would much rather not sit in front of a computer responding to emails and do social media posts. We wanted to take the operational workload away from them and let them focus on leading trips.
As per ATTA’s research, the total market size for Adventure travel is around $600 billion. This includes soft and hard adventure tours.
How and when will you make money?
We take a percentage of every trip booked on the GreatGuides platform. We are building partner relationships with insurance providers and air and hotel operators to build out additional sources for revenue.
Our forecast is to start building revenue within the next six months.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?
Atma Shetty is the founder of GreatGuides. He is a technology and product manager with over 20 years of experience in digital and enterprise transformation. He successfully program managed business and digital projects ranging in budgets from $3 million to $45 million. He has led major programs and built enterprise and consumer products at large technology companies including IBM, Microsoft, Expedia, T‐Mobile and Slalom.
He was the co‐founder and product lead of Kazume, a transaction management platform for real estate agents.
Dan Moore is the lead guide and adventure expert. He has nearly 20 years of experience as an outdoor educator, professional adventure guide and workshop facilitator. Dan is the founder and CEO of Pandion Consulting & Facilitation, a consulting and training firm based in Seattle. Dan sits on several non‐profit boards and is a member of the faculty for Adventure EDU, the education and consulting arm of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. He also teaches Ecotourism, Adventure Travel, and Guide Training at Peninsula College in Washington State. He facilitated the creation of the international Adventure Travel Guide Qualifications and Performance Standard.
Alison Martin is GreatGuides' marketing lead. She will lead marketing efforts for GreatGuides, including creation and execution of the marketing plan for launch and growth. Alison (Ali) brings over 25 years of marketing experience to Great Guides. Her experience includes companies of all sizes: from two‐person startups including venture‐backed initiatives to large, highly matrixed, global companies. She has successfully led the digital launch and execution strategy for >$1 billion brands.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
Understanding the adventure travel landscape has been the most challenging part. Adventure travel covers a range of activities from mountain trekking to kayaking to ecotourism. It is important to focus on a few categories initially. The next most challenging part has been the finding the right guides to partner with. We get a lot of requests to participate in our platform. But we are being selective in choosing the guides from the right location with the skill and experience to feature on our platform.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact ‐ so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
We are focused on being the premier source for adventure guides worldwide. The demand for guides will be essential for travelers and tour operators.
We have a great team to execute with the right blend of technology, marketing and adventure travel experience.
PhocusWire Startup Stage
Learn more about our profiling of new travel companies and how to apply.