Withlocals, the the Netherlands-based startup that operates a marketplace for personalised travel experiences, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Inkef Capital, the Amsterdam-headquartered VC firm.
Pitching itself as an alternative to mass-market package holidays and tours, Withlocals says it wants to capture at least 20 percent of the online personalized tours and activities market, which, it reckons, is will be worth $6.8 billion by 2020, citing a report by Eye To Travel.
The startup currently lists 1,200 "fully-customizable," private tours and activities -- ie only you or your family/group are in attendance -- led by 900 local hosts in 24 international cities. It plans to expand into 40 more cities in the next year, including New York, Florence, and Hong Kong.
Matthijs Keij, CEO of Withlocals, says that one size fits all mass tourism is coming to an end, and that travellers "are looking to get off the ‘TripAdvisor circuit’" in favour of more unique experiences.
"We created Withlocals so tourists can experience cities like the locals do," he adds, arguing that this is a very different proposition to tour aggregators such as Viator or GetYourGuide, which are used by commercial companies to sell packaged group tours.
To that end, Withlocals says it is seeing over 10,000 people participating in experiences each month, and that it has increased booking volumes an average of 20 percent per month for the last 18 months.
Furthermore, the startup expects growth to accelerate as it expands into more cities, adds multiple languages to its website, and rolls out new mobile functionality. Currently, 42 percent of bookings are made via the Withlocals mobile app, but that number is expected to grow to 85 percent by the end of 2018.