Companies appeal to the socially responsible traveler

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Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has a new goal. By the end of this summer, he wants Airbnb to achieve one million stays, globally, in one night. The site wants not only to meet this goal by the end of summer but also plans to expand the platform so users can plan their getaways with one all encompassing service. The evolution of sites like Airbnb is a solution for a growing trend in tourism. Tourists are increasingly acting as their own tour guides in search of a more local, authentic experience while away from home.

Sites like Airbnb, Vayable and Trippy have become a disruptive force in the travel industry. Travel has become more amenable to getting the most bang for your buck. For example, Airbnb has made it possible to stay in a three bedroom apartment seconds from the Duomo, in Florence, Italy. These type of travel housing possibilities define the return of socially responsible travel. In avoiding the confining “all inclusive” resort vacations, tourists are able to commit to travel that intertwines them in to the roots of their destination. Instead of feeling like a visitor, tourists can have a more local experience, like going to the market to buy local produce to make a meal in their Airbnb’s kitchen.

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In a similar attempt to provide a local housing experience, Vayable allows tourists to book tours with “local insiders”. The site offers exclusive tours that travel companies can not provide like a one hour tour of the Louvre, midnight food crawls across cities that never sleep and street art explorations in creative hubs like San Francisco. Vayable tours are then rated and reviewed by participants and some are even “video verified” for those who want a sneak peak before they book. Many reviews even state that Vayable tour guides and tourists become friends. Thus, a local connection is made that is different from the relationship a tourist would have with the hotel concierge. Vayable recreates the local experience for the tourist so they feel that they are more than a visitor but a part of their destination’s fabric.

Everyone wants the glory of giving the best travel advice. Trippy makes that possible as a travel question and answer forum. It allows tourists to give travel advice to other tourists, including an option to find “expert” suggestions from fellow adventurers. The site is account based (a user has to sign up with Facebook or with an e-mail) in order to emphasize the security of a community. Trippy is like having an ever evolving travel guidebook.Travel advice and commentary are “liked” and edited in order to push the most relevant travel wisdom to the top of the site for easy accessibility. It is social voting, an extension of socially responsible travel, that hinges on travel being self-created and influenced by fellow world wanderers.

Socially conscious travel does appear heavy handed in its suggestion. In reality, the rapid evolution of technology means that tourists can make their travel as intimate or as grandiose as they want. Anyone can be a travel guru, regardless if travel is your career or a two week escape from the everyday monotony.

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