It’s the mind-set of the modern traveller. People seek experiences beyond the manufactured.
In the last year or so, there have been an increasing number of tools to help. Airbnb and Homestay have been the first to address this desire by offering real homes to tourists, but others quickly followed. Now visitors can eat or go clubbing with the locals, ask specific questions and even go on a date; all through free and easy to use applications.
We have to depart from the beaten path and do what the locals do; we must be open to chance encounters and have to be a little brave.
And it is not only the travellers who can benefit. Apps can also encourage locals to act like tourists in their cities and find out new things they didn’t know about.
Apps that help…
- For the Party Animal
The aim of the Party with a Local app is exactly what its name suggests: connect users with locals for a night, established by your whereabouts. (It’s like Tinder, though for a fun night as a goal and not having an appointment or a meeting.) Users publish Ideas – “let’s drink in this wine bar” or “come to this birthday party in this club “- and tourists can talk to them through the app and arrange the meeting.
The application has 20 thousand users in 160 countries (even up in Antarctica) and is expected to reach 16 million users in three years. (All users fill out a profile, but no specific system to investigate the locals beyond that.)
It is a good easy way to break the ice, and promote that feeling of meeting new people and having fun spontaneously when going out at night.
- The Search for Knowledge
Other apps such as UrbanBuddy , for example, connects travellers with selected locals, who answer questions in real time, through live chats or on the phone. Most hotels no longer provide a concierge, so guests of hotels are forced to do their own research, which is time consuming and inefficient. The questions are answered in less than two minutes. (“Friends” have to be individually endorsed by somebody either from the team or via word of mouth, and then rewards them with “Buddy” reward points that can be redeemed for things such as free breaks at hotels.)
Apps like Owners Direct are also great for those looking to rent homes and spare rooms with locals instead of hotels. With a raft of search functions in more than a hundred categories, this free app is quickly gaining traction amongst the travelling fraternity.
- For the Food Lover
Cookening is one of a growing number of apps ( Feastly , PlateCulture ) using home as a connection point for meals. The organisation is not entirely altruistic; most of the locals who are the hosts earn money by charging for dinner (now Cookening offers food in New York City at a cost of between $27 and $67).
However, for tourists who want truer culinary experiences, these apps allow them to avoid the restaurant scene, where the only interaction is with a waiter. They get to communicate with locals at their level and in the comfort of their home. So too, for the host, it allows them to cultivate the love for cooking in their spare time and meet people from around the world.