Site connecting travelers with local experts plans to open to advisors

TravelLocal, a U.K.-based platform that connects travelers with vetted, local tour operators and other travel experts, saw “huge” growth in 2022 with more of the same expected in 2023, according to co-founder Huw Owen. 

The company’s premise is to partner travelers with in-destination travel experts, operators or guides, who will then “use their knowledge and experience to plan an unforgettable trip tailored to you,” according to TravelLocal’s website. 

The traveler picks a destination and provides a trip sketch (travel style, types of experiences, budget) through the TravelLocal website, and then that info is forwarded to a local Destination Expert, who will personalize and fill in the itinerary. Payment and communication is done through the TravelLocal website. 

The company has enjoyed steady growth as the pandemic has waned, including in the U.S. market. About 70% of its customer base is from the U.S., and its U.S. business grew more than 42% in 2022.

TravelLocal is an ASTA member as part of its plan to focus on a broad rollout of its product to the travel trade this year. 

Before the pandemic, Owen said, TravelLocal worked with advisors in the U.K. only, on a limited basis. The company is regularly approached by advisors who want to use the platform, and Owen said it’s “obvious” that advisors and the platform would work well together.

Owen’s background in the industry goes back to 2003 and includes working at tour operator Audley Travel followed by running a Cambodian destination management company. The dynamic of working for both a tour operator and a DMC gave Owen very different views of the industry, he said.

He combined that knowledge with the power of platform technology used to distribute products and created TravelLocal in 2016. TravelLocal handpicks tour operators to work with and includes nearly 100 destinations worldwide. Its offerings were further bolstered by the acquisition of Berlin-based booking platform in 2021.

The benefit for advisors would be access to vetted operators that can provide their clients with “a breadth and depth” of products from locals, Owen said.

Advisors, he said, are “specialists in client relationships, but they don’t necessarily know everything about the destination. Nor will they ever. It’s just so difficult to get on top of all that information. They need some kind of layer of information that they can access, and that’s where we come in.”

In 2023, TravelLocal is also working on some new features for the platform, like giving travelers the ability to collaborate on trips. The company is also working on building its brand through television advertising in the U.K. And while it’s more than a year out, Owen is thinking about launching verticals on TravelLocal, like adventure travel.

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