Today, Peek released its mobile app, which will put its thousands of activities at traveler’s fingertips.
The iOS app uses the geo-location capability of your phone to recommend experiences and activities near you. Users can browse activities by category, such as “what to do with the kids” or “off the beaten path,” or look at Peek’s city guides made my local tastemakers. The app also features a new personality quiz to help you find activities relevant to your interests.
“Mobile is especially important in the activities market because only 20% of travelers book in advance, so users want to be able to use geo-location technology to find fun things to do around them,” founder Ruzwana Bashir told VentureBeat. “Peek is part of a broader trend where we are seeing fragmented and offline industries move online, the pace of which is being accelerated by increased use of mobile devices.”
Peek is one of the most buzzed-about travel startups out there. Bashir graduated from Oxford and attended Harvard Business School. She worked in banking at Blackstone and Goldman Sachs and then took a job at Gilt Groupe.
She took a birthday trip to Istanbul and spent weeks researching and planning where to go and what to do, comparing provider options, making calls, and trying to book from afar. She ended up with an exhaustive spreadsheet of information, which she shared around with friends (and friends of friends, and so on) anytime someone went to Turkey.
She saw that there was a high demand for curated, researched, vetted travel experiences and set out to build a site where experiences were not only easy to find but also easy to book.
“What you do on travel holiday is what your memories are based on,” said Bashir. “People want to do cool stuff, and this is what will shape your entire experience. We want to be the number-one player for experiences and disrupt the market so you don’t even need to buy a guidebook; you just can have this one resource to book, buy, and go have fun.”
Peek has consistently grown since then, adding new travel destinations across the U.S. as well as in London and Paris. The company is backed by an elite group of investors, including Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt, SV Angel, and Khosla Ventures, and seems to have overcome the threat of obsolescence that looms over many travel startups.
Travel is a competitive and challenging sector of the tech world. Large companies like Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Viator have been around for ages. We are now seeing the next generation of travel startups (Vayable, Mygola, Wander, AnyRoad, Trippy, Gogobot, TripIt, and Schemer), but many struggle to get significant traction.
Some, like Tripl, have failed; others, such as GTrot, have pivoted away from travel; and still others have been acquired and shuttered, as was Wanderfly.
Travel apps constitute a space that already has a lot of noise, and building out a two-sided marketplace is challenging, particularly when the merchant end of that marketplace are often small service providers without technological savvy or a reliable Internet connection.
“The activities market is still largely untapped by technology – 60% of tour operators don’t have online booking, and 1 in 5 don’t even have a website,” Bashir said.
According to a market research study of the travel marketplace, 80 percent of travelers conduct Internet research ahead of time, but only 20 percent of the transactions happen online. This a huge disconnect has widened as commerce around travel experiences is still a primarily offline and fragmented industry.
However, mobile has helped break down many of these barriers. On-the-go access to anything makes more sense for travelers than something that requires a computer, and mobile gives a wider range of merchants the ability to get online. It also makes it easier for travelers and merchants alike to update information and communicate.
Mobile is a smart and necessary move for any travel startup, particularly those that are experience-based (versus hotel or flight booking).
Peek also launched “Peek Professional” recently, which helps service providers manage their business with online booking and calendaring tools.
Peek said that only one in five people plan their vacation in advance, and this app is geared toward last-minute bookers. One screen displays descriptions, pricing, availability, reviews, and a big “book now” button.
It also caters to locals looking for something new to do in their city — and those who are just curious what Jack Dorsey’s perfect day in San Francisco consists of.