To introduce Offbeat Guides, here are a few numbers on the business of tourism: “In 2007, there were over 903 million international tourist arrivals, with a growth of 6.6% as compared to 2006 […] arrivals grew at around 5% during the first four months of 2008, almost a similar growth than the same period in 2007. (tourism, Wikipedia)” Tourism is a growing economy. Online, all sorts of traveling-related services flourished: Flight and hotel search engines, social recommendations, social networks, travel-focused classifieds… 2 months ago, Offbeat Guides stepped in the game to create a new market segment: on-demand, personalized travel guides.
Today in private request-your-invite beta, Offbeat Guides is the first breed of travel personalization engine. Anybody who is planning their next vacation trip is invited to visit Offbeatguides.com. The experience is fairly simple: answer 5 basic questions about your trip; remove undesired chapters from a table of content; create additional chapters to fill in more personal info.
3 days before your trip, you’ll received your personalized travel guide, containing information about the town where you’re staying, its history, local maps, hotel information, weather forecasts, tips on the local habits, ongoing events… all in one slim, convenient to carry around book.
[…] the travel guides that I get at the bookstore are really only about the “big” destinations – you know, the big cities and tourist spots. And I’m paying for lots of information that I really don’t need – I end up getting a book that’s mostly about the places where I’m NOT going. (David Sifry, Sifry’s Alert)”
David Sifry is the Founder and CEO of Offbeat Guides, a tech entrepreneur well-known for his previous company Technorati. Just like Technorati turned out to be a major game-changer in the early days of the Web 2.0, Offbeat Guides brings un je ne sais quoi to the travel industry that sounds very promising.
“After five years of building a search engine that scoured the “live web” for new, fresh information from authoritative sources, I knew that there was an exciting opportunity to add in a new dimension – location – and maybe build something really neat: A constantly changing, up-to-the-minute set of travel guides that could also be personalized to your preferences. (David Sifry, Sifry’s Alert)”
Offbeat Guides is a team of 4, including one previous employee of Lonely Planet, all working extra full-time on adjusting and fine-tuning the personalization engine. The engine processes data from both proprietary sources and well-controlled user-generated environments (such as Wikipedia). It could also process your online social network information – to include friends lists or business contacts for example. This info will also appear in Offbeat Guides if beta users request such a feature (which I’m pretty sure they will).
“Offbeat Guides’ first product is personalized, on-demand printed Travel Guides. (David Sifry, Sifry’s Alert)
Mmm, this first product makes me wonder how Offbeat Guides is planning to develop: Will it focus its core competency on a Web-to-paper business like Blurb? Will it focus on a travel personalization technology the way FFWD does for video? Or will it deploy its presence in the travel industry by developing a line of innovative travel solutions?
Mention of this interview in Offbeat Guides’ blog.