Taking a content marketplace to the streets
Tap'n'Tour is rethinking a popular part of the tourism market
We’re taking a break from the recent run of A.I. startups to look at a marketplace in the tourism space.
The founder is ambitious about this startup’s global potential but isn’t currently planning to raise multiple rounds of funding beyond an upcoming pre-seed.
It’s an interesting story, and I’m keen to occasionally share early-stage startups who want to take different approaches to the traditional VC multi-round route once they’ve raised their first round.
As ever, our paying subscribers get the full picture, with much more detail and access to our full archive and our acclaimed (and soon to be revamped!) Startup Tracker.
Tap’n’Tour is taking a content marketplace to the streets of tourist hotspots
Tourism can be difficult for tech companies to tackle because it’s so fragmented. Take the tour guide market, for example. GetYourGuide has been around for nearly 15 years and has raised over $1 billion but is only now claiming to be profitable in its core markets.
But what if there’s a different way to do the tour guide experience? Tap’n’Tour envisions a future where tourists simply buy a tour, crafted by an expert local tour guide or anyone else looking to monetise their local knowledge, and then do it in their own time via a mobile app.
Founder Joaquin Contreras is building a marketplace where tour guides (professional or otherwise) can create tours, complete with a map, audio guides, written information, and recommendations, via an easy-to-use interface.
They can then sell these to tourists through the app, earning passive income from their expertise instead of selling their time to tourists in person. Tours submitted will be checked for quality before publication.
Tap’n’Tour is experimenting with taking a cut of sales anywhere from 20% to 50%, based on factors like popularity and positive reviews. The more popular a tour is, the better the deal a tour guide gets.
Given that Apple established 30% as the (contentious) default cut a tech company takes in these situations and other tech companies take less, where does a figure like 50% come from? The tourism industry.
“Usually tour guides pay 50% to travel agencies, if they work as a tour guide walking around with people and doing tours,” says Contreras.
“We want to make sure that [guides are] really committed to the task and really committed to making good content and making good tours. And if they sell and they are successful, we will reward them with lowering that rate. [We want to] keep them motivated and give them rewards to stay with us.”
The story so far
As with so many startups in the past couple of years, Tap’n’Tour’s story began in the depths of the Covid pandemic.
Contreras moved to Manchester from Chile in 2019 to study for a Masters degree in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. He loved to travel around the UK and Europe with his wife, often taking advantage of guided tours to avoid having to plan a sightseeing itinerary themselves.
When Covid hit, travel was off the cards. Even when travel became possible again, tours were generally unavailable due to social distancing restrictions.
“We weren't able to do walking tours, so I started trying to find a solution because I still didn't have the time to plan everything. I realised that there weren't any solutions available on the market. If you wanted to do a walking tour without a tour guide, you weren't able to do it.”
This led Contreras to build a solution: a prototype app called Pandemic Tours, initially offering just three self-guided tour plans for no charge. He says he saw positive results from early users.
“The logical next step was studying and measuring if people were willing to pay for the experience, and people started paying,” he says.
“I started contacting tour guides. The feedback was awesome. They really liked the idea.”
Contreras says he now has nine tour guides working with him, selling more than 100 tours per month to a total of 1,200 customers who have each bought at least one tour.
He says with a waitlist of 150 tour guides waiting to sign up, he’s hit a bottleneck where the idea has outgrown the manual processes behind the prototype.
Hence he’s now launched an alpha version of Tap’n’Tour, the evolution of Pandemic Tours, designed to scale. Contreras started the company by himself, but he now has three developers working with him on in-house technology.
“We're bringing in tour guides from our waitlist gradually. This phased approach allows us to fine-tune the platform based on their feedback and ensure everything runs smoothly,” he says.
Tap’n’Tour plans to launch a mobile app in “the next two to three months”, with at least 150 tours, Contreras says.
The startup is focusing first on the UK market. It plans to leverage the tour guides as ambassadors as well as content creators, with the aim of building a community that helps the userbase grow.
From there, the aim is to expand into mainland Europe, in countries such as France and Spain.
But Contreras wants to focus the app squarely on the UK first, growing via a focus on specific niches. For example, Roman history in Chester.
“We'll tap on the content around niches people are searching for, rather than generic experiences people are tired of.”
Still focused on the UK, Tap’n’Tour wants to add non-English content for international tourists, including support for automatic translation to help tour guides expand their market.
From there, other future content could include quizzes, perhaps leveraging A.I. to generate questions and answers from the content.
“But first we're building the base, the foundations, to create this ecosystem around the travel experience.”
Go deeper on Tap’n’Tour
Read more on their funding, vision, competition, and challenges:
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