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Custom Travel Experiences and the Guides Who Give Them

When the number of pre-made trip packages for sale on its site became scarce, the new online travel marketplace Vayable started offering customized travel experiences as a stopgap measure to boost its offerings. Forbes reports that they quickly found that the demand for custom trips was much greater than the demand for pre-made trips. Vayable has quickly re-designed its business to focus on tailored vacations, and is poised for rapid growth as this feature becomes the center of its operations.

But the execs and entrepreneurs who started Vayable won’t be the only ones to benefit. Their new business model will create employment opportunities for thousands of relatively autonomous tour-guides:

Interested customers fill out a short survey to gauge their interests and travel style, then get paired with a Vayable travel guide based in their destination to design a bespoke tour. The company has a roster of 5,000 guides stationed in 500 cities. Travelers pay a $45 trip development fee whether they accept the package or not. Travel guides, who are often available for advice on the ground, charge whatever they think is fair. Wong says that the average guide fee is $250.

This example demonstrates what we expect to be an increasingly common employment pattern in the future. Entrepreneurial savants will create platforms (Vayable, Air BnB) that allow individuals to offer custom experiences and products to consumers under-served by the “one size fits all” blue model. Those who created the platforms will make the most profit, but those who use them for employment will, with a little creativity and effort, be able to work themselves into steady employment. And, in the end, customized products will offer all of us a richer, more satisfying life.

[Travel image courtesy of]

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  • ljgude

    This is the best new kind of job example I have seen on Via Meadia because it fills a recognizable niche and is concrete. oDesk, which a web based employment agency where companies post tasks and contractors advertise their skills and their prices. . It is already happening and is world wide. oDek takes a commission and in return do all the relevant tax and paperwork. I agree this is going to happen in thousands of unanticipated ways.

  • Jim__L

    This is only one segment of the long tail.

    One thing this brings to mind — do services like Yelp allow the “disintermediation” of brand trust? I’m always a little hesitant to try out a new restaurant without a recommendation, often preferring to go with known-quantity brands instead. Yelp provides me with information previously conveyed by the shorthand of a brand, so I try off-brand options more often.

    Does anyone else do the same? Or does anyone have any broader study data that might show this to be a trend?

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