Social travel advisor Gtrot is banking on your friends to make its business model work: The newly launched travel-recommendation system leverages the wealth of travel and venue advice available from your extended social graph.
Gtrot's system is pretty simple: It looks at the information available from your social network on Facebook and Twitter, determining information about where your contacts have traveled, where they've stayed, or if they live near where you're going. Instead of relying on "Bob, age 48" on TripAdvisor, who may have hated the hotel you're considering, you can solicit a more personal, trusted opinion from someone you already know pretty well. It can "usually show you ten friends who've been where you're going, or live there now," according to cofounder Zachary Smith. Founded in 2009 as a sort of Harvard College spin-off, Gtrot recently impressed Lightbank--the funding firm that backed Groupon--enough to garner a $1 million infusion of capital.
Meanwhile, Gtrot is mixing it up a bit for summer, to help boost its user numbers, which have almost doubled to 10,000 since its May move from Beta mode to public launch. It's augmenting the social-network recommendations with short "curated travel guides" for a selected list of international tourist cities that are crowd-sourced from "really social travelers" selected from the most dynamic people in its user base. It's Gtrot's attempt to mine its own data, trying to work out the best places to eat, party, or shop.
It's the first step in the evolution of the system, moving from recommendations from "great sources of advice from people you know, who you can screen from people you don't trust" on Facebook and Twitter, to integrating "more of this trusted travel advice, not just from other users but also trusted brands," Smith said. It will also incorporate a "deal" element to help users save money when they travel. And while this sounds a little like existing travel brands that have bolted on a social angle in recent years, it's more carefully chosen and still based within your friendships and contacts. "We're pulling in content from some really cool content partners...and people will be able to say 'Hey, I want advice from these ten friends, my Twitter followers, and these four brands,' and then we'll create them a very beautiful, custom dynamic travel guide," Smith said.
While it remains to be seen if Gtrot is truly the future of travel advice, this service is certainly more personal than walking into a crowded bus station and asking the nearest station agent to recommend a good Italian joint, which is essentially how many existing travel-advice sites work.
[Image: Flickr user Ed Yourdon]