For the 300 million millennial travellers set to embark on adventures around the world by 2020, meeting likeminded people to share adventures with is as much a part of the experience as the destinations themselves.
According to a new report from the World Tourism Organisation, 75% of millennial travellers now make their travel plans on the road and look beyond the confines of holiday package itineraries. However, mainstream social media apps still fail to connect people in the same location in a simple, fun way to enable them to meet, split the cost of travel or share experiences in a suitably impromptu way.
The new location-based mobile app Travltalk is aiming to change the way millennial explorers roam the world and find authentic local experiences. Users simply swipe through ‘cards’ posted by others for inspiration for what to do, then the app brings people together to meet, sell or split, to make it happen on the go.
Founder and CEO of Travltalk, Rhiannon Monks spent ten years solo backpacking across the world to over 80 countries, staying in more than 300 hostels. The friendships she made while on her journeys drove her quest to build Travltalk, as she wanted to help as many people as possible meet and share experiences as they move around the world. I spoke to her to know more about the innovation.
TD: What was the idea behind Travltalk?
Rhiannon Monks (RM): As I travelled the world, I loved discovering new cities and cultures, but the memories I have of these places relate to the people I alongside. Many of these people became my friends for life, and many years later we still travel together or visit each other in our hometowns.
I started travelling when the Lonely Planet was the main source of information, and Facebook didn’t exist. The best place to meet people was in a hostel common room. But as the world adopted social media, and AirBnB became popular, people spent more time researching online vs in person word of mouth, and away from hostel commons rooms.
With the recent privacy problems Facebook had, I think people are moving away from traditional social media and mixing social with offline – apps like Tinder, Uber and AirBnB help you not only connect socially and online, but in person with people in the area.
Travltalk allows you to meet other travellers in the same city, and also you can suggest things to split the cost for, and also sell travel items you no longer need.
How did you go about finding the right team members?
I met my business partner Andy when I worked in a festival. He is a chef by trade and had run pubs and bars. I used to work in the festival each year, to help me earn money to travel. He was my initial investor and cofounder. He is great with operational advice, and I look after the business operations, product management and our growth and marketing strategy.
What are the challenges you’ve faced and how did you borrow learnings from your past experience?
Everyone starts in the same position, and along the way, people are wiped out with each new challenge. It’s very rare for start-ups to make it to the final ‘wall’. I feel like I am there right now. We managed to build a great product, in a lean way, and get it out in the App Store and Google Play – and people are downloading it and using it.
Right now I am facing the final ‘wall’, which is our seed raise. It’s really hard because investors rarely talk to seed-stage companies. There is not much support for them, even once you have got this far!
How do you think Traveltalk is different from other social travel apps?
Most travel apps at present let you record memories and stay or meet with locals, find tours or map your journey. Travltalk allows you to find people who want to meet up in the same area, and you can create cards, with your idea, the date and time and then post it for others nearby to swipe through. We haven’t seen anything yet on the market that does that.
Who is your major target group and how are you catering to them?
Travltalk is aimed at people who are on a gap year, travelling couples, digital nomads, AirBnB-goers and backpackers that roam the world and seek adventure as they go. As part of our launch marketing, we will be working with hostels to offer travellers the chance to make money referring our app to other travellers.
“Word of mouth is really important in the travel industry”
Word of mouth is really important in the travel industry. I loved sharing tips with other travellers on the best route or tour to take. We believe travellers will find Travltalk really useful, and hope they will recommend it to friends. Instead of just expecting it though, we’d like to reward people for spreading the word. And a little extra cash while travelling can really go a long way.
What are your expansion plans?
We are focusing our initial marketing efforts across Europe. The travelling community is really interesting. If you think about London it’s full of both tourists and Londoners that frequently take vacations and city breaks. Also the tourists here move elsewhere.
I describe it as we have to light little happy bonfires in different cities, so there are people creating cards and other people swiping through them. If they like using Travltalk in one place, the next time they go travelling they will use it again.
What is the revenue model?
Travltalk is free to use in every city, of the country you are currently in. You can also post cards to other destinations, so for example if you live in London, but are going to Paris next week, you can post a card with the future date, time and travel bucket item you want to do and users in Paris can see it and respond.
If you want to see cards in a different country from where you currently are in, for example in Berlin, because you are headed there next week, users can upgrade to premium for only 99p per month.
What are the best and worst aspects of the travel industry in your opinion
The travel industry online is quite spammy. Often reviews are paid for and it’s all about selling hotel rooms. Which is of course useful, but ignore the experiences travel can offer and also the idea your journey can be made up along the way.
“The random element of travel is the best part”
The random element of travel is the best part. That you can arrive in a new place, not know anyone, and suddenly connect with like minded people who are also there to explore the city and learn more about life from other perspectives.
What has changed the most during your time in the travel industry? How do you and your company stay ahead of the curve?
I mentioned earlier that I started travelling before Facebook, and WiFi in hostels. This meant in the evenings people connected in person a lot more, because there were no phones or laptops. But I celebrate the transition to digital – it’s much safer for travellers to be able to connect with family at home regularly and also to keep in touch with people you meet.
I do think there is a throwback trend to move back from laptops to meeting in person. Through our user research, in the backpacking community, and based on my personal experience, I know that travellers love meeting other travellers, and that has never changed. It’s just become harder to locate other travellers. So we tapped in to the idea people were using Tinder when travelling to find people nearby. But instead of dating, we wanted to make Travltalk about meeting over a passion for a culture and exploration of a destination.
TD: What trends do you think we will see in the next three years?
Location-based, social mobile is becoming huge. We offer an easy in app purchase if people want to see cards from cities ahead of time. This is a popular premium service as you can use an app for free and easily pay for it, if you think the upgrade option is valuable.
But above all, I see the trend of going from people hiding behind a social media wall and returning to the offline world, but using technologies like mobile apps to discover each other and connect ahead of time.
TD: Where is Travltalk headed?
From here we are aiming to go global. Many people have told me it is hard to scale a business and for a new mobile start up to get traction worldwide. Our mission for Travltalk is to deliver an application that people like to use, that adds value to their daily life.
TD: Any practices that your borrowed from your personal travel style/experience.
Travelling has taught me how to better understand alternative points of view and see how different the world can be across countries and continents. I always celebrate difference. I am no longer afraid of what is foreign to me, but rather know how to connect with someone different and also what is of interest to them, to learn about me. It also taught me the world is not so big. To have travelled overland, across the globe, and meet all sorts of wonderful people, I realise we are all part of a this same beautiful planets and while the globe is round, it is finite, and most of all, I feel blessed that I have had the chance to see so much of it. Travltalk was built to help every new travellers find their feet and explore our great world for themselves, their own way.