If you want to take an off-beat vacation and have no idea where to turn, consider Tripology. The company, which connects you to travel agents who know the less traveled roads throughout the world, has just raised $1.25 million in its first round of financing.
Travel is one of the more crowded areas of the Internet, filled with upstarts like Sidestep to Kayak, RealTravel, TripIt (to launch this summer) and OpTrip, a new Mountain View, Calif. start-up founded by Stanford computer science PhD Calvin Yang, which has just received an undisclosed amount of funding.
And, of course, Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz all work perfectly well when you want to set up a simple flight, hotel, rent-a-car trip.
But what if you need a little more human help to do the far-out stuff?
What if you want to backpack to Tanzania, hike Kilimanjaro, hit Kenya for a safari, then hop a plane to Micronesia to SCUBA dive some World War II shipwrecks? You could buy Lonely Planet guides for all of these places, filter through them and make the arrangements yourself, or you can find a travel agent who has set up these things before.
The problem for adventuresome consumers is that the best specialty travel agents are not always easy to find. The problem for specialty travel agents is that finding the adventuresome consumers is even harder. Sites like Specialty Travel and Travel Hub list specialty travel agencies, but the listings on those sites requires digging and guesswork, and is somewhat cumbersome.
Tripology addresses this: It asks intrepid travelers what they want to do on their trip and automatically finds three to four travel agents who know how to make that happen. For the consumer, finding the agents is free. For the travel agents, the qualified leads come for $5 dollars a pop.
The site gives you the standard options you’d expect from a travel site. You can input the dates of your trip, what kind of hotel or cruise you’d like, whether or not you’d like to rent a car, etc. What sets this site apart is its “Activity and Tours” section, which lets you specify the regions you’d like to visit, which countries you hope to explore, and up to 10 activities you’d like to engage in while you’re there. The activities range from backpacking, fishing, and rafting to arts and crafts, visiting spas, and drinking local wines. You then set the type of trip — honeymoon, destination wedding, family vacation, bachelor party and more — and your lifestyle — disabled, risque, gay & lesbian, single, or religious –and submit it.
This information is all used to match you with ideal travel agents, and Tripology does not get involved in any transactions after that — though, users can rate and comment on the agents after their experiences with them. The company has global ambitions: A fifth of its 4500 registered travel agents are outside the U.S. It will use the $1.25 million to expand its reach.
The funding round was led by Ascend Venture Group.