Bristol-based TravelLocal.com is bringing the ‘buy local’ movement to tailor-made holidays, by connecting travellers directly with carefully selected local travel companies in their destinations around the world.
Its innovative new global booking platform, launched today, enables customers to create their holidays with the real experts in their destination, cutting out travel agents and international travel companies, whilst also benefiting from 100% financial protection backed by ABTA (Britain’s globally respected travel industry association). The result is a fairer deal for local travel companies and a better experience for clients.
“We are turning the tailor-made travel business on its head and radically improving it – and our customers love it. After all, no one knows a country better than its local travel experts. Why book with travel agents thousands of miles away from your destination, who only rarely visit it, when you can now go direct?” says co-founder Tom Stapleton.
At launch customers can browse unique experiences around the world, including meeting famous author Pascal Khoo Thwe in Burma; using the Soviet-era Metro to explore Tashkent, Uzbekistan; stalking with the Hadzabe Bushmen of Tanzania and visiting village chocolatiers in Guatemala.
Customers Want to Go Local and Direct
The trend towards tailor-made travel has grown rapidly in recent years, with travellers looking to get away from the tourist trail and also to explore more unusual destinations. However, it is one of the few remaining segments of the travel industry which has yet to move online. TravelLocal is changing this by giving the local travel companies hosted on its new platform the technology and market access they need to take on traditional travel agencies and companies.
“ We are bringing the fair trade ethos to tailor-made travel, using the power of the internet . Many travellers want to book with a travel company in their destination, but they don’t know which ones to trust and they rightly worry about transferring money abroad. TravelLocal solves this by carefully selecting excellent local travel companies, by providing ABTA-backed financial protection for all bookings and by taking payment in the UK” says co-founder Huw Owen.
The company has already attracted a global customer base with its radical new approach, with bookings from clients in 13 countries to date on its existing website, including the UK, USA, China, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Dubai and Brazil.
The platform is easy to use for both customers and the local travel companies. Customers can browse the destination pages for inspiration, engage directly with the local tour operators to refine the trip and book the entire holiday securely online.
Sally Yeshin, a client from London in the UK, has just booked her third tailor-made holiday using TravelLocal.com. “TravelLocal gives us the freedom to go straight to great local companies in the country we’re visiting – a brilliant and simple idea. With it we get real local knowledge and expertise, more of our money benefits the country and its people– and it’s all ABTA protected” she said.
Carefully Selected Local Travel Companies
TravelLocal currently showcases local travel companies from more than 35 countries around the world including, for example, Burma, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Argentina. It will expand to cover 80 destinations on its new online platform in the next six months.
TravelLocal thoroughly assesses its selected local travel companies, working only with those which will deliver a reliable, professional service as well as original and authentic experiences. They all have strongly positive customer feedback ratings from international clients and demonstrate high levels of innovation and creativity, as well as being locally-owned.
Olga Magurdumova of ICTS, TravelLocal’s local travel company in Uzbekistan, commented “TravelLocal’s new online platform is a big step forward for us and long overdue. It enables us to communicate our expertise directly with clients, which we haven’t previously been able to do. Its online itinerary generator software also means we can present our itineraries to them beautifully – and in our own words.”
The new platform has sample trips from each featured local travel company, including a 14 day cultural trip to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for £1775 per person (not including flights); a 9 day trip to Kalimantan, Indonesia, to see Orangutans for £700 per person (not including flights); and a 14 day journey across Nicaragua for £1470 per person (not including flights).
Having talked to local experts around the world Tom and Huw think there are new trends emerging. “There are some lesser known countries starting to shine through now – we can see increasing interest in destinations such as Uganda, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Laos. Customers either want to visit more unusual places, or they want to visit more mainstream destinations in a deeper and more varied way. It’s fantastic for the local tour operators on our platform, who know their own countries in much greater detail than you find elsewhere” said Huw.
“We can also see customers becoming braver – especially families. We regularly have requests from families looking to go to some very far flung places. They’re after authenticity and novelty, they love the local angle, but they want the ABTA logo and sense of security that a UK-based platform brings” added Tom.
Local Experts are the Unsung Heroes
TravelLocal was founded in 2012 by Tom Stapleton and Huw Owen, who met while working for a leading high street tailor-made travel company in the UK. Believing that the local travel companies and their guides are the unsung heroes of the industry, they launched TravelLocal to change that. The company is funded by a group of private investors and is expanding beyond the UK into international markets.
TravelLocal aims to become the preferred choice for travellers booking tailor-made holidays anywhere in the world. “We believe that this is the future of our industry – local and direct, providing a better experience for the client and a fairer deal for the local travel companies” says Huw Owen.