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When Vacationing Doesn’t Mean Having to Act Like a Tourist

If Spanish startup Trip4Real had its way, you’d never go on a double decker bus again.

Local sailor Marc Vilanova offers people tours of Barcelona’s coastline

“Visitors come to Barcelona and think it’s all sangria, playa, and paella. And it’s actually not this,” says Gloria Molins. “In Spain we have such a huge gastronomy culture, and in Barcelona it’s not really about paella and sangria.”

Molins' new startup, Trip4Real, is aiming to provide the kind of local knowledge that would help tourists trade paella for calçotada (a kind of long, fried scallion onion) and sangria for vermouth, a locally produced favorite that’s experiencing a revival. In practice, the company is taking what Airbnb did for accommodation and applying it to experience: connecting visitors of cities to the locals that live there.

Molins, who has a background in both tech and hospitality, reached an epiphany after living and traveling abroad in India, Australia, and Southeast Asia: “Every time you trace the really special moments you have when traveling, they are the ones you spend with local people.”

Launched to serve tourists in Spain this past February, Trip4Real plans to expand to London, Paris, Rome, and Berlin. With some of Europe’s most famed tourist locations reportedly buckling under the pressure of record attendance—the Louvre, which is the world’s busiest art museum, had 9.3 million visitors last year—Trip4Real is positioning itself as an antidote to long queues.

Photo by Joan Figueras

Molin began her company by recruiting freelance photographers, designers, tour guides, and other passionate city locals to begin posting experiences online. Now, instead of paying 25 euros to sit on one of Europe’s ubiquitous double decker bus tours to see Barcelona’s famed la Sagrada Familia, visitors can hire an architecture masters student with a passion for Gaudí to lead them on a walking tour. By seeing a place through the eyes of an enthused local, the visitor can have a more authentic experience.

“People are already doing this with social media when they travel,” says Molin. “When I was living in Sydney I would get friends of friends of friends contacting me asking to see how I lived, what my life was like, to go get a drink.”

The collaborative economy to which Trip4Real, Uber, and Airbnb all contribute has come under fire recently, especially in Spain. Due to pressure from the country’s powerful hotel lobby, Airbnb was hit with a €30,000 fine and ordered to establish a minimum stay of five nights for booking a place to stay in Madrid. Meanwhile, taxi drivers across Europe have been protesting the loss of business caused by Uber.

Like Airbnb and Uber, Trip4Real is offering travelers a cheaper alternative to traditional travel industries. Seeing the reaction from the hotel and taxi industries, Trip4Real has tried to preemptively skirt the issue by allowing tour companies to post their services on the site and filtering the ones that seem purely transactional.

“If you’re a tour company with 15 guides and you’re offering tours of everything in the city on our site, that doesn’t feel right,” Molin explains. “You can be passionate about a couple things, but can’t be really passionate about everything.”

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