The latest arrival at Bristol’s co-working space Boxworks is TravelLocal, a company keen to bring the ‘buy local’ movement to your holiday experiences. With the launch of their new website you can now connect directly with local travel companies in destinations around the world.

Customers can browse unique experiences such as meeting famous author Pascal Khoo Thwe in Burma; using the Soviet-era Metro to explore Tashkent, Uzbekistan; stalking with the Hadzabe Bushmen of Tanzania and visiting village chocolatiers in Guatemala.

The idea behind TravelLocal is to cut out travel agents and international travel companies resulting in a fairer deal for local travel companies and a better experience for customers.

We spoke to Huw Owen, joint managing director of TravelLocal, to find out more about the company and why the team have chosen Bristol for its new home:

TechSPARK: What is TravelLocal and how did you come to set it up?

Huw Owen Travel LocalHuw Owen: It’s a completely new travel concept, a marketplace where travellers can connect directly with locally owned travel companies in their destination.

For example, if you’re going to Peru you can find a great Peruvian company to help you (and likewise in 40 countries worldwide). By going direct you and the local company get a fairer deal, the local economy in your destination gets a boost, and by cutting out the big UK or US-based tour operators you get better value.

The local companies also know their destination really well. Imagine it in reverse – if you were coming to the South West on holiday you’d get the best advice from local people here.

TS: What successes have you had from the launch?

HO: The company has been around for a while. We have featured in National Geographic, The Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph and had repeat customers from all over the world. What’s new is the web platform that we are launching today, built by Bath-based Rocketmakers.

It’s state of the art, we think it really showcases not only the destinations we offer but the local companies themselves. You can plan and book the entire trip all in one place, and all payments are bonded by [the leading association of travel agents and tour operators] ABTA – to our knowledge we are the only company of our kind in the UK to be able to do this.

“We can recruit in the UK’s greatest city… and benefit from the increasing buzz around the South West’s tech scene”

 

TS: Why have you decided to move into Boxworks?

HO: The location in the heart of Bristol is perfect. It means we can recruit in the UK’s greatest city (full disclosure – co-founder Huw Owen was born in Bristol) and benefit from the increasing buzz around the South West’s tech scene – the Engine Shed is a fantastic facility, and it’s right next door. We want to build a company that shakes things up, thinks differently and stands out – that feels like a good match with Bristol!

travel local homepage
TravelLocal’s new homepage: Getting that itchy feet feeling!
TS: How have the people of South West taken up the shop local trend?

HO: We can see it everywhere, in numerous sectors. The most obvious is food & drink. You have places like the Bristol Cider Shop, the Thali Cafe or Hart’s Bakery, all with a similar ethos. Anyone who has been to Bath Farmer’s Market will instinctively understand what we’re doing. Next to Boxworks is the new location for Yurt Lush – a very appropriate new local for our growing team!

“Build something different and put your heart and soul into it. There’s no worse feeling than working hard for a company or cause that you don’t really believe in or agree with.”

 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to set up a global platform?

HO: Build something different and put your heart and soul into it. There’s no worse feeling than working hard for a company or cause that you don’t really believe in or agree with.

TS: Does it work the other way round, can Bristol people become local travel experts?

HO: In due course we will be putting the UK on to the platform. There’s a big and growing tourism market here – we often get asked about the UK in fact! If you really know every last thing about the South West and you’re passionate about crafting unique, bespoke itineraries for travellers from around the world – and you’re locally owned – then we’d love to hear from you!

So, you heard him, if you would like to give your input into a UK platform get in touch. You can keep up with TravelLocal at the TravelLocal website or by following them on Twitter: @TravelLocal.