Tech as an Enabler for Inclusivity and Empowerment

Matthijs introduces us to Withlocals with a concept – an anecdote giving context to how the organisation came to be.

Bringing locals together in order to satisfy the curiosity of locals and tourists alike. Withlocals aims to connect the two parties in order to provide authentic experiences through knowledgeable guides – locals who are passionate about educating tourists on their homes.

Matthijs introduces us to Withlocals with a concept – an anecdote giving context to how the organisation came to be. Bringing locals together in order to satisfy the curiosity of locals and tourists alike. Withlocals aims to connect the two parties in order to provide authentic experiences through knowledgeable guides – locals who are passionate about educating tourists on their homes.

Currently, Withlocals is associated with at least 2000 worldwide, local hosts, all of whom provide small, community-like experiences for tourists and giving them their patented "5-star experiences".

Matthijs goes on to explain that technology has three pillars that support the standards and mission statement of Withlocals:

  1. It is a platform for travellers, providing personalised, engaging small scale experiences. Giving the aforementioned authentic community-like feel. A strive to be unique.
  2. The user experience should always be more than the basic consumption of media. Tourists don't want to be reading Wikipedia articles or half-listening to a droll podcast. It's important to make experiences memorable and worth their time.
  3. Technology isn't just for the customer, it's important for the local guides (hosts) to have an easy experience in doing what they do best. Withlocals takes care of their marketing, availability, and networking. Providing new opportunities for their esteemed guides.

We're introduced to an example in the form of the Roman Food Tour, in which Matthijs prides its approach in working off of a wide collection of customer feedback. Ensuring that customers have a satisfactory experience for the right time, with the right amount of food to try. Matthijs also mentions how important it is to match the right host with the right tour, as well as making sure they can enhance the personalisation aspect of the experience.

Withlocals hit a particular hurdle during the pandemic, in that they immediately saw an opportunity in creating online experiences for users, but they were also competing with large-scale platforms such as YouTube and Netflix for their audience's attention and retention. They understood that their users were feeling disconnected, but were also tired of countless Zoom calls with lots of people to focus on at once.

As a solution to this, we are introduced to one of Withlocal's Live Virtual Walks. This experience includes:

  1. The host, who is walking the viewers through a destination.
  2. A moderator, whose job is to connect the audience to the host through the platform's chat.
  3. Guests who can provide further context/knowledge on the destination.

Members of the chat are able to direct the experience through the moderator, further personalising this experience and forming a community within the platform as well.

What this means in terms of inclusivity is that locals can give an educational experience to users, such as national holidays or other celebrations that can be shared through this platform. In the future, this can be an experience that can be something that can complement the tourist's experience in real life. For locals themselves, it can be an opportunity to open to their families and get them involved with the activities as well.

Introducing Sebastian, a local guide from Amsterdam, who says that technology acts as an enabler. Different destinations have various different restrictions and transport laws and as such equipment needs to be adapted in order to comply with such. One example is a gamble that Sebastian has repurposed onto his bicycles acting as a stabiliser for his mobile phone. This highlights how Withlocals considers the hosts' needs alongside the user experience.

Sebastian goes on to explain that virtual tours are a unifying experience, and open up for extended discussion and a broader worldview. For example, he was asked about the Presidential Election and gave an educated, honest, response from his unique perspective.

Overall, Withlocals empowers locals and the user experience alike by circulating and encouraging local businesses to get involved through their guides, including a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and opinion in order to provide customers with what they want out of a travelling experience, and this is all thanks to open thinking and advancements in technology. Embracing digitalisation and pushing what current tech is capable of.

Key Takeaways

1. Technology has been built in order to provide highly interactive experiences.

2. Virtual tours will complement travel, not replace it.

3. Involving locals can create meaningful connections with travellers.

Published on:
November 2020
About the contributor

Matthijs Keij


This year the role of Matthijs has unexpectedly changed to Master of the Pivots, in addition to being CEO of Withlocals.