Among the Copycats, Some Real Innovators

Up on stage at Phocuswright yesterday, dozens of travel start-ups vied for our attention, and like the Greek chorus offstage, we bloggers tapped away making comments and asking questions on Twitter. I found myself focusing on the main question of ‘what’s actually new here?’ when so many of the present ideas seemed to be pretty much the same thing.

A few start-ups were basically the same concept that had been tried years before. One in particular was very much like the winner of the innovator’s prize a few years ago, an application that could be used to plan road trips. That winner went out of business a year after he won.

But there were notable exceptions, that really caught my attention. One was an iphone application called EveryTrail,and Joost Schreve wasted no time in getting it going for us to see. Instead of using power point like everyone else, he just began using the actual tool on his phone. It creates a map of a place where someone has been, and you can pop in photos of things you did, so you can share the walk, or the drive with your friends. So far they’ve compiled a database of more than 200,000 trips from 140 countries. Many in the audience downloaded the app to their phones, always a good sign.

Another stand-out was called localyte, which offered local opinions of places travelers could visit. They have amassed a cadre of 40,000 local experts who can speak about where they live, and more than 1000 new reports are uploaded every day. Doug Renert told us that he has about 700 experts in Barcelona, so that anyone who goes to the site can get insider type information from one of these people.