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Four startups that will change your mind on travel

Four startups offer a unique approach to travel from individual guides and tours to using social network preferences and profiles for personalized itineraries and sharing experiences on a Pinterest-like site for inspiration.

Though summer is over, the season for travel does not have to be. The modern traveler is bombarded with the most popular online booking services such as Booking.com, Expedia, Kayak and Skyscanner.

But, digging a little deeper, one can find others who are not so well known yet compete with the market leaders. RBTH presents four Russian travel startups that are combining their own twist on traveling with good customer service.

         1.  Sputnik - Look through another's eyes

"We believe that a city is much more than just a historic center, worn-out facts and the monotonous voice of a guide," announces the St. Petersburg-based startup Sputnik.соm. Sputnik is an online platform that connects innovative guides from St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kyiv with travelers from around the world.

The concept behind Sputnik is giving people the chance to look at a city through the eyes of a specific person, to walk his favorite routes, and to see the places that he loves. The St. Petersburg version of the site offers tours of the city's pubs, antique shops, flea markets, and walks in the footsteps of writers and poets (Dovlatov, Dostoevsky, and Brodsky).

There are also options for adults only, such as Risqué Petersburg, touring the city's two erotic museums and suggesting clubs with the most beautiful dancers. The English version of the site offers guided tours in different languages, depending on the languages that the guide speaks (see the flags by each tour).

         2.  Exсursiоpediа.соm - Multilingual, individualized tours

Exсursiоpediа.соm ensures being met by a guide who will give you a carefully-planned, individual tour, offered in 25 languages. The project was founded in 2010 and specializes in active and informative traveling.

The creators of the site started by covering a minimum number of all more or less well-known tourist sites, and then started to work on individual cities and developing their partner network. "We now have more than 1200 cities in 135 countries in the database. Honestly, when there is a new city, I don't even always know where it is located," admitted the CEO of the project, Kirill Semyagin in an interview with a Russian publication.

Among the adventures they offer in Moscow, for example, there is Training for Young Soldiers (a short course that explains what is taught in the army), Legends and Myths of Stalinist Skyscrapers, and Journey with a Digger. The site is available in English as well as Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

         3.  Trаvelаtus.соm - Socially personalized travel

Trаvelаtus.соm allows users to enter the site through a social network account, and receive more personalized recommendations based on music, sports and cultural interests. "We work in part like a standard travel agency by providing a complete package of services, but try to be more flexible," says Valentin Dombrovsky, founder of the company.

"You choose the date and the place of the event, you can create a package of several of them, and then select a place to stay and transportation. In the future we want to be the universal solution for those who want to give their journey meaning." The service is in English.

         4.  iknоw.travel - Pinterest for travelers

The fashionable trend of social travel (traveling on the recommendations of friends) appeared on the Russian market in 2011. Climbing on board with the growth of Pinterest-like services (web sites with visual content in a noteboard design), the iknоw.travel site emerged.

The project is a recommendatory social network that allows people to use contacts on Facebook or the Russian social network VK in combination with online travel planning. On the site sophisticated travelers and novices, as well as staff editors, tell about their travels.

The site plans to create a genuine expert community. Anna Bichevskaya, cofounder of the project, divides the site's audience into two main groups: "The first is project contributors -- we want people to write for us and use us to share their travels and recommendations of the best of the best.

The second group is the wider audience. People who are open to new experiences, who want an interesting trip, but for a number of different reasons do not yet have enough knowledge and experience to recommend a place themselves."

The site is only available in Russian, but can be used in English with the aid of translation services such as Google Translate. 

2013-08-23, Russia Beyond The Headlines, Camilla Shin.

Keywords: tourism, social networking, startups

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