Localyte Launches iPhone App To Be Your Personal Sherpa

Travel site Localyte has a new twist on travel advice—the site tries to connect travelers with locals in their destination to serve as guides or just to get advice. Locals in communities around the world vary from professional tour guides who charge for the custom tours to everyday people who simply want to help folks enjoy their hometown as much as possible. Since late 2007, Localyte has accumulated 40,000 local guides in about 10,000 destinations across 160 countries. The site also offers reviews and listings of local activities.

Now, Localyte is furthering its mobile strategy by launching PocketSherpa, a free iPhone app that integrates its online platform onto a mobile device, letting travelers access local guides and information (from WikiTravel) on the go. The app lists tours and contact info in cities and also lists local travel guides in those cities who are available to answer any questions. For example, if you were traveling in Egypt, you could ask “Are there any hot air balloon rides available over the Pyramids?” Localyte’s CEO Guillermo Baensch says that locals answer the questions fairly quickly, within a few hours at most. You can also access threads of previous questions that were submitted in your destination. Localyte’s app has a built-in mailbox that lets you send and receive messages, and also lets you see local newspapers in the region where you are traveling.

So how does Localyte get locals to participate? Baensch says that Localyte engages people around the world through social networks, such as Facebook. From glancing at Localyte’s Facebook page, you can see that locals seem enthusiastic to help show travelers around in their native countries.

Of course, there is not shortage of mobile applications that provides useful services to travelers, making it a very competitive space. But Baensch says that in the week that the app hit the app store, it quickly rose to be listed as one of the top 15 travel apps in the App Store.