The buzzword in travel today? “Experiential.” Guidebooks, magazines, and even websites like this one strive to provide insider accounts of great travel experiences around the globe. But even we can’t be everywhere at once. What if the coverage of the latest city you wish to visit happened, say, two years ago? And how can one assure that the author of the article has the same travel “personality” as you?
Enter AFAR Connect, the latest platform from AFAR Media (yes, the same people who brought you the magazine). This social media based website is dedicated to connecting like-minded travelers and locals.
Using a proprietary Travel Personality technology and entry “quiz,” travelers are guided through a series of questions that categorizes them into one of 36 different groups with a corresponding color. On one end of the spectrum you’ll find the safe, relaxation-seeking traveler who prefers destinations like Florida. On the other, you’ll find the “Discoverer,” a traveler whose ideal experience would involve, say, volunteering in Haiti.
Users can ask questions about their upcoming travel plans and the site will connect the user directly with others who share their same travel profile and have intimate knowledge of the specific destination. “Tour books are generalized for the masses and lead travelers to the same spots as all the other tourists, and your friends may have general, but not in-depth knowledge of a destination,” said Derek Butcher, CTO of AFAR Media. “When looking for travel advice, it’s not who you know, but who you should know that can make the difference in your experience. Our proprietary technology facilitates intimate knowledge sharing for the enrichment of travel experiences.”
AFAR Connect continues to learn about and evolve a traveler’s personality through a user’s posts, advice, questions and travel experiences. On the site, a user can ask a question about a place that he or she is interested in visiting and the site’s technology will push the question to those users AFAR finds are best suited to answer based on their knowledge of the area and activity, as well as his or her Travel Personality. Those users are then able to engage in direct one-to-one communication that will enable the traveler to have a unique, personalized experience.
In addition, users can also comment on posts, ‘follow’ other members whose advice they value, share photos, and more. Users can create an AFAR-specific profile or log in using Facebook Connect, which will import information already stored in their Facebook profiles. The technology is the key differentiator, and ensures users receive travel recommendations from travelers who appreciate the same types of experiences as they do.
“AFAR Connect is the next step in our goal of promoting experiential travel,” said Greg Sullivan, co-founder and CEO of AFAR Media. “While the magazine is meant to inspire, AFAR Connect is a practical tool for travelers who want to pack their bags and experience a destination from a local’s perspective. For me, the best travel advice comes from locals or from other travelers who share the same values and interests as I do. Until now there was no site that could help facilitate that exchange of information on a personalized one-to-one basis.”
AFAR also encourages local businesses and travel brands to participate in the community. Businesses can set up profiles similar to travelers, and respond to questions, offer advice, and share information about their company. From airlines to snorkel shops, travel brands that participate in the spirit of the community can use the platform to drive customers to their front door.
Gadling readers interested in trying the private beta version of AFAR Connect can gain access through http://beta.afar.com with code GADAFAR. The code is good for the first 100 readers.