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the European Community IN PERSON: connecting people and cultures through home dining

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECINPERSON (the European Community IN PERSON: connecting people and cultures through home dining)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2017-09-30

The goal of the ECINPERSON project is to bring the Withlocals concept to the European Community. Back in 2015 this concept entailed a home dining social marketplace which allows travellers to have dinner in the home of a local host. This marketplace would bring a new sense of understanding and belonging to people from different countries as well as to people with different cultural origins. Based on data driven technology the original concept has expanded into a larger marketplace for personalized tours and activities, but the underlying foundation has not changed. Creating an understanding between different cultures is still a challenge and it’s not something which can be changed overnight.

Just as a way to further illustrate this, how much easier does it become for a Dutch person to understand why his tax euros are used to save the Greek economy once he has sat at the dinner table of a Greek family in Athens where youth unemployment of 50% has driven all siblings back to their parents’ house because they could no longer afford to study, to buy food or keep a room for themselves? It is the personal and authentic connection during a Withlocals tour or activity that brings the friendship and understanding. Similarly, how to better create an understanding for the Portuguese culture than being guided by a local host to find the hidden gems of Lisbon. By enjoying the unique Portuguese culture, meeting the host’s family, exploring the neighborhood and of course the food culture, new ties and trust are created between citizens with a different cultural background. It is all about the opportunity to create understanding between people from different cultures under the conditions their minds and hearts are open:during a private, personal and unique tour or activity with a local host.

With the objective of rolling out the Withlocals concept throughout Europe in a sustainable and successful way, Withlocals aimed at building a recommendation based marketplace solution that makes personalised local & private experiences available and affordable to the mass.
The Withlocals platform has been evolved into a marketplace that makes 100% personalized experiences possible. With data as the main driver, Withlocals now uses a technological driven approach to create the “dream experience”, called Withlocals Originals. With this data driven portfolio as the backbone of Withlocals’ success, the platform is unique in the way it offers guests fully personalizable tours and activities where you can even select who you want to have as your host. Based on host characteristics Withlocals is now able to match guest preferences with relevant hosts to significantly increase the chance of a positive experience. All for prices that compete with the standardized group experiences offered by other companies in the market.

The final step in personalization has now been realized by giving guests the opportunity to easily book a tour at their city trip or holiday location, even for the same day. Withlocals offers them not only full flexibility in the kind of experience, but also in the timing and the way of booking. The platform has been made available in five of the major European languages and more to come. With all these features in place, Withlocals helps guests to decide what their experience will look like, when and even with which host to welcome them. This guarantees a unique experience each and every time. Thanks to our platform vision of bringing travelers together with a private and local host, we are truly connecting people and cultures in a personal way, at scale.

The ECINPERSON project, starting in Q2 2015, has helped Withlocals to establish its presence throughout the European Community. The funding by the EC (to the amount of € 2.5M) has helped Withlocals to realize spectacular growth. This is supported by over 900 local hosts, a presence in many major European cities, cross-border partnerships and a team headcount of 42. The funding has allowed the Withlocals platform to grow rapidly past the inflection point of organic growth and continue along this curve, resulting in a 20% month-over-month growth since Q1 2016 until today.

Thanks to the EU H2020 program Withlocals:
Has connected almost 100.000 travelers with locals across Europe
Is in pole position to revolutionize the tours & activities market
Has grown to a company of more than 40 people with 12 different nationalities
Has received another 3.5 million of VC funding to continue its mission of connecting people and cultures across the world!
Socio-economic impact
Withlocals’ aim to have a socio-economic impact is evident, but in making that impact we’ve only seen the beginning. Like any marketplace it takes quite a while to come to the stage where you can drive really large volumes in terms of bookings and connecting travellers with local hosts. Regardless of scale, our mission has not changed over the years: we want to connect people and cultures through unique travel experiences. To make this happen, we offer locals around the world the opportunity to earn money with something they are passionate about. Realizing our vision to become the leading player in the personalized tours and activities market goes hand in hand with making a lasting socio-economic impact. As locked in the core of the business model, Withlocals can only grow in revenue by generating much (up to 4 times) more revenue for the locals itself. Our platform would not exist without our local hosts and our growth goes hand in hand with generating an additional income stream for anybody who wants to share its passion with travelers.

Wider societal implications
We firmly believe the world of mass-travel is coming to an end. Just a simple look at the headlines of last year show that mass tourism is threatening the liveability in cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam. Many tourists are all flocking to the same places and you can argue how much they really see of a city. Thanks to our local hosts Withlocals can spread tourists across the city and show them different sides of town. Our platform adds convenience, but more importantly trust, so the threshold for travellers to actually meet with locals becomes much lower. This is the first and a very important step towards connecting people and cultures. As mentioned before, this story becomes even stronger when looking at the reviews of our customers. The central theme in those reviews is always the connection with the local host and how that provided a very valuable perspective on a city, the local culture and the people involved. We will do everything we can to let as many guests and hosts enjoy a Withlocals experience and be a central player in the transition from mass-travel to personalized and unique travel experiences.