There’s been a lot of buzz about social travel sites over the last year, and we seem to hear from a new one every day. Yes, social has either transformed or is in the process of transforming nearly every industry, old and new alike. Semil Shah recently penned a great round-up of the startups people are using to plan their trips, discover new place, and get recommendations from experts and friends alike. (Check it out here.) One of these startups, Tripping, is capitalizing on the success of rental/exchange marketplaces like Airbnb, and Couchsurfing to allow travelers to connect with new people and find places to stay in the destinations they visit.
Tripping, which debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt in NYC last year, wants to connect travelers with locals to get the inside scoop on places they visit, share a cup of coffee with them, or even stay in their homes. It’s a great concept, but one that’s been overshadowed a bit by the success of the two sites mentioned previously. So, to supe up the site’s offerings, Tripping is today launching a discovery engine that aggregates listings from the world’s top vacation and short-term rental sites to become the Kayak of Airbnbs. (Sorry, I had to. Everyone loves a good Airbnb comparison, right?)
The engine includes 500K+ listings from sites like HomeAway, Flipkey, Roomara, iStopOver, and 9flats in an effort to turn Tripping into the largest aggregator for peer-to-peer home rentals on ye olde Interwebs. What’s more, the new discovery engine enables travelers to search for people and rentals in over 15,000 cities around the world, as well as easily view map locations and property details so that users can compare listings and get a full picture of each property — all in one place. Importantly, Tripping’s engine also aggregates ratings for rentals that are listed on multiple sites, so that users can get a better sense of which sources have been used frequently and are crowd-approved.
As a part of the launch of its discovery engine, the startup has also given its dashboard a facelift, including the ability to take advantage of Facebook integration so that users can see mutual friends on the site, where they’re staying, and who/what they recommend, as well as the ability for users to save their favorite listings and sites in a separate tab so they can come back to them later.
It’s functionalities like these where Tripping hopes to set itself apart from Airbnb, while at the same time capitalizing on the sudden ubiquity of peer-to-peer home and apartment sharing. The key is that Tripping allows vacationers and travelers the ability to connect and rent based on the communities they share and interests. So, if you’re a golfer or a biker, you can places to stay that are owned or operated by people who share the same interests.
It takes a little of the creepiness out of the Airbnb model and adds at least a bit of social proof and trust. It’s also more likely to make your stay in a new place more enjoyable, if you’re able to get recommendations on bike routes from people who are avid bikers themselves — and even go on rides with those people.
A search and discovery engine is a natural addition for Tripping, and makes the discoverability process much easier. It also adds to the business’ ability to become a lead generator for local businesses who want to target their ads to people who would be natural customers for their products and services. A golfer traveling to Florida is more likely to want to see an ad about local golf shops, equipment retailers, or receive discounts on greens fees at local public courses. These types of ads could be targeted, too, based on users’ search history and the communities they’re joining on Tripping.
The site is also in the process of creating partnerships with the organizations that have established communities on their site, and will likely be charging fees for these communities, or at least the branded pages they establish, that would allow them to offer programs, suggestions, and recommendations for places to stay, eat, and activities for their members traveling abroad.
The founders of Tripping, Jen O’Neal and Nate Weisiger were both early StubHub employees, who left after the company’s acquisition by eBay to build Tripping. The startup has made some great progress, and was backed by Quest Venture Partners, Draper Associates, and Launch Capital, which dumped $1 million in seed funding into the site back in July.
The platform is really starting to come together, and the new listings and discovery engine look great and are pretty easy to use. Check it out, and let us know what you think.