| Elizabeth Chang |
WASHINGTON (WP-BLOOM) – Many travellers who want to get the real flavour of a place skip traditional guidebooks and online sites and turn to someone who lives there.
That impulse is behind Localeur (see photo), “a community of locals who want to help you experience the best places to eat and play”.
The travel site launched almost two years ago in Austin, Texas, and thus far features more than 200 contributors making recommendations in 12 cities (the others are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle; New Orleans and Portland, are coming soon).
It has raised US$900,000 from angel investors, was named Austin’s best new start-up in 2013 and appeared on a Forbes.com list of best travel apps for 2015.
Localeur can be accessed online or through an iOS app. On the site, users can search by city, topic or contributors — aka “localeurs”, each of whom was recommended by another contributor.
“We’re not looking for writers; we’re looking for locals,” co-founder Joah Spearman said in an interview.
Recommendations cover entertainment, night life, art and culture, fitness and outdoors, food and dining, neighbourhoods and shopping. Contributors are not told what to write about, Spearman said, and are paid a modest fee for their contributions.
Localeur differs from other crowd-sourced sites in that its recommendations are curated and its writers are identified.
Spearman said travellers most often use Localeur’s website to help plan trips.
When they get to their destination, they open the app, which has a feature for “Nearby Places” and allows them to save recommendations to phones. This should be more helpful as the community grows; I found only about six items listed near my New York hotel.
The listings by localeurs can be eclectic: “Four Killer Stairs Workouts in NYC” or “The Top Places to Get Your Country on in South Florida”.
The Washington recommen-dations appear pretty solid, though not always as insidery as one might hope.
A list about Eastern Market included only general information when what visitors need help with is finding the gems among the overwhelming number of vendors and stalls.
While planning my trip to New York, I realised I couldn’t search for recommendations around a destination (ie Times Square), and I didn’t like having to click on an item or map view to find addresses.
But I enjoyed reading the often-creative listings and appreciated that the localeurs seem to be, as Spearman puts it, “people who are really passionate about their cities”.
Those, I’ve found, are the best travel experts of all.