One of the joys of having a travel blog that people other than your mother read, and that pops up pretty high on Google for searches on particular travel adventures, is that soon enough your inbox will be inundated with all sorts of vaguely travel-related emails. I love that blog readers email me almost daily about the Laugevegur Trek; that random PR people send me press releases about mens outerwear and portable wine pouches, not so much.
Last month, though, I received an email that fell into a different category (let’s call it *Interesting Proposals*). It was from the PR Lead at Ventoura, reaching out to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their new phone app. In her words:
Ventoura is a social discovery mobile application that enables locals to host tours for travellers, taking them off the beaten path for experiences they won’t find anywhere else in the destination. The app also allows travellers to connect with other like-minded travellers headed to the same place at the same time. Anyone can become a local and start earning money. We cover destinations all over the world, with a local city emphasis on Europe. Currently we have plenty of different kind of tours: food, beer, cycling, adventure, art and even just partying with a local.
Making money by sharing off the beaten path travel experiences? I was immediately intrigued. Once I learned that the app entailed the same left/right swipe action as my beloved Tinder, I was sold.
Allow me to introduce you to a fantastic new travel app: Ventoura!
Ventoura as a Traveller
When you open the Ventoura app on your phone for the first time, you’re requested to log in to your Facebook account. Then you’re asked whether you’re a Traveller or a Local. Since I’m currently traveling around Australia on the Work & Holiday visa, I chose Traveller.
The process is pretty simple if you’re a Traveller:
Add your trips: Select which cities you’ll be in on which dates. One useful feature here is that it will say ‘Local’ next to any city that currently has Locals offering tours (note: As of June 2015, Locals are only available in Europe). If you’ll be travelling in a city that isn’t marked Local, it means you can only be matched with fellow Travellers who are in that city when you are.
Fill in your profile: Be sure to fill out your profile straight away. I didn’t notice until a few weeks later that I’d been appearing as a blank face when I popped up on the app for other Travellers.
Swipe: This is the fun part! When you’re ‘Ventouring’, you get to swipe left (no) or right (yes) on each person that pops up. If they’re a local, you can check out what tours they’re offering and say yes if you’re interested in signing up. If they’re a traveller, then I’m not entirely sure what you base this off of (clearly it shouldn’t be looks, else why not just stick to Tinder?), but whatever your criteria: you say yes to people you’d want to hang out with during your trip. If you both swipe right, you’ll be able to message each other on the platform: you can ask Locals about their tours before booking, or chat with fellow Travellers
Book a tour: If you match with a Local and you dig a tour they’re offering, go on and book it! You pay for it upfront via PayPal.
Ventoura as a Local
The thing about Ventoura is that, since it’s only been live since March, it’s still quite a small network – and right now only a subset of major European cities are available to join as a Local (43 cities in total). Ventoura is rapidly expanding and plans to add loads more cities, but in the meantime it means that only a). Travellers, and b). Locals offering tours in select cities can use the app.
Using the app is a bit less free-form if you’re joining as a Local. You’ll be guided through the process of listing your tour step-by-step, which basically boils down to the following:
List your tour: Select your city, type and length of tour; then bring your tour to life by adding a description of what Travellers can expect when they book it. Easy! I really dig their lengthy list of tour types (chillout, hidden gems, music, mystery, photography… to name a few), but I wish there was the option of marking a tour with more than one type. What if I wanted to offer a cycling photography tour – would I call it a cycling tour, or a photography tour?
Set up payment: When you add your tour to Ventoura, you’ll set a price to charge for it (anywhere from 5 EUR and up), and a payment method (either PayPal or cash). Note that there’s an 18% transaction fee per tour booking for use of the Ventoura platform, and that you’ll receive payment after the tour has taken place.
Swipe: You know the drill by now: swipe right if you like the person, or left if you don’t. In the name of maximizing your tour bookings, I’d assume that you’d swipe right to every single Traveller that pops up. Turning on the auto-matching function accomplishes this as well.
Manage tour bookings: You can easily access all your current and past tour bookings right in the Ventoura app. There’s even an option in the settings to turn on an alert to remind you about upcoming tours.
Should You Use Ventoura?
I think Ventoura has the potential to become something really rad in the virtual travel world. The app is making it easier to connect with people from another culture and share a fun local experience together – and that’s what travel’s all about.
To its credit, Ventoura has cleverly taken advantage of the left/right hot-or-not swipe phenomenon that’s made Tinder such a hit in the past year, and I can definitely see travel enthusiasts embracing the app once it catches on. Thanks to this familiarity, Locals and Travellers all intuitively know that swiping right means they’re interested – though it’s not clear exactly *what* they’re indicating interest in. Meeting up? Hooking up? Travelling together? Booking or selling a tour? It could mean any number of things. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but I’m eager to experiment with it once I’m in a city with Ventoura Locals.
That said, I’ve not been able to fully take advantage of the Ventoura platform due to geography limitations. I tried it out last month when I was traveling in Perth, hoping to find some like-minded Travellers to go on road trips with or meet up with for coffee in the city, but found the user base in this remote, Local-less city was very small.
If I were still living in New York, I’d be ALL over this app – hell, I wouldn’t have to rely on Tinder to tame my Wanderlust! And even better, I’d be making a little extra money just by showing foreigners a good time in my city. BUT… New York isn’t an option on Ventoura yet, so I wouldn’t be able to join as a Local. Major bummer.
Which leads me to reiterate a serious and obvious limitation of the app: You can only join Ventoura as a Local if you are offering a tour in a particular city. I know Ventoura has plans to expand in the near future, and when they do I’d love it if they could:
- Open the app up to Locals worldwide, not just in Europe
- Open the app up to Locals even if they aren’t offering a tour
- Allow Locals to offer more than one tour at a time
With those three things taken care of, I think Ventoura will be a hit. I’ll definitely be giving it another go when I’m in a city with a larger user base.
So should you use Ventoura? If you’re not in Europe, I say hold tight – there’s not much going on in other cities just yet. But if you are in Europe, YES – take a tour, give a tour, make some friends… then report back, because I’m interested to hear about your experience!