The future of travel recommendations

We’ve identified several problems with recommendations (and solutions too).

When we talk about travel we usually talk about the good things. It is, after all, one of the good things in life. But as most experienced travellers know, it’s not always easy, or pretty, or fun, and when we have high expectations, the let down can sting.

Most people don't usually talk about transportation, and the hours it takes to pass all of the security checks and lines in airports. But what’s a few hours of standing in line and sitting in a plane compared to seeing the world, right?

But it’s the seeing the world part that can become really tricky - and disappointing. There’s a lot of stuff out there that you wouldn’t want to experience in your daily lives, let alone when on vacation! But avoiding these experiences and places is easier said than done. It all relies on recommendations and how suited they are to us.

Most of our travel decisions are based on information that we read or hear from others, and that information can be amazing or terrible. The business of recommendations is a lot more complicated than we think (that’s if you think about it at all!). They can be biased, irrelevant, unsuitable, false. So much can go wrong. And if you don’t know on what I’m talking about, you can finish reading this article and then watch this.

Recommendations can be split into two types:
Static: Things and places that stay putt, like monuments, and restaurants and parks.
Dynamic: Information that is time-and-location based and can be curated for-and-by your taste.

Some static recommendations are also dynamic, because places close and open etc. It is more difficult to get our hands on the second type, for obvious reasons. But any good recommendation, whether static or dynamic, is hard to find. We’ve identified several problems with recommendations:

For one, there’s no easy way to get recommendations that are time-and-location based because we don’t know people in most locations we visit, and we don’t know that the information we do end up finding can be trusted or that it suits us. You probably experienced this before, when going to a Yelp recommendation that looked promising online, and in reality - not so much. Or when following a tip from someone on social media, only to discover that the venue is closed for a private event.

But why stop there? Think about the basic top-10 lists that we see all the time on Google or in our SM feeds. It was probably written by a content editor who has many reasons to make it, from commercial to personal, and we have no way of knowing’t know them or why they chose what they chose.

Now imagine you go to a city where you know no one, you haven’t planned too much, you’re strolling around and wondering what to do tonight, and then you open your phone and look on a map and find pins for spots nearby curated by someone who shares your taste, and a live feed of updated info about what’s going on, and you can even ping a local who you’ve never met before just to ask if they can suggest something based on their knowledge - and then be on your way.

Surely, this can be a reality? (do you see where I’m going with this?).

This is where Cool Cousin and its community comes in. We have created a way to make this happen by allowing travelers to stop sourcing info from other tourists or biased sources, and rather get their information straight from the horse’s mouth - aka a local who actually knows what’s going on in the city, in real time, who’s recommendations have been verified by unbiased parties. No, it’s not too good to be true. It’s just true.

We are building a community with different roles and the members of this community, from all over the world, decide what recommendation is good and worthy using an open and democratic system. Only a list that was approved by the community will get to see our eyes.The group that will make those decisions will be assembled from Cousins and Users that are the most active in their community.

Let’s say that there is a new pop up store somewhere, or there is a “new-kind-of-super-hipster-music festival” in the city, which the community knows about.
Those dynamic events are hard to come by if you’re out of the local loop. But now, Cousins will be able to create map layers that update immediately in order to provide their event participants map of the coolest places to visit, and will allow travelers already in the city to explore new and exciting events. The main advantage of allowing the community to control the recommendations is that everything will be dynamic and approved only when the community sees fit. This will allow travelers to receive recommendations that are most relevant to them and avoid platforms that claim there is one single source of truth.

This is the real advantage of having your new “travel agents” as active members of the local community - and it can change the way we look at recommendations too.

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With a background as a satellite operator in the intelligence force of the IDF, Ofer has years of experience in making things work. Today, he is a computer science and economics student who is the rising star of Cool Cousin’s backend development.