Hyperlocal is the watchword of a new type of economy that is taking hold all over the world. Here, the term is not yet particularly popular, but you know, we Italians take our time acquiring fads and trends, we buy TV formats five years late and we only get interested in “buzzwords” when the U.S. and the rest of the world have chewed them up and moved on. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Google “hyperlocal”. Got it? Now select only Italian results. You can also try “hyperlocal”. Got it? Now tell me I’m not right. The fact that travel and hyperlocal information is a growing trend means it’s the perfect time to create a themed startup. No need to thank me, I’ll settle for a modest percentage when you get bought by Tripadvisor. But let’s go in order: what does “hyperlocal” mean? This term refers to all the information about a geographically defined community. Around this information a person-to-person economy model is developing that, so far, seems to succeed in the delicate task of providing quality services without destroying resources or feeding stereotypes. The hyperlocal stay has been talked about to exhaustion (Airbnb, Homestay, Housetrip and many others): the most promising growth is in all other sectors of tourism. Here are a few examples.
Hyperlocal tourism: no tourist traps
The (fortunately) growing number of responsible tourism enthusiasts is driving the hyperlocal trend. Those who don’t like pre-packaged itineraries and postcard destinations, those who don’t want to return home after a trip to Paris with two hundred pictures of the Eiffel Tower or London with as many pictures of Big Ben, until recently, organized their trips based on the authentic historical or artistic interest in a certain destination and took advantage of the advice of their acquaintances and friends. We all have that one friend who, in turn, has friends all over the world and constantly brags about being a traveler – not a tourist – and exploring countries away from the locals’ point of view. Hyperlocal travel sites help normal people, who don’t even have a friend in Nepal, to visit (almost) any place on the planet from a local perspective, while respecting the territory and culture of the place. Some sites connect potential visitors with local experts, offering personalized travel experiences. In some cases, like Contexttravel, the guides are not tour guides, but real teachers able to offer guests in-depth lessons on the artistic beauties of the city, in other cases they are residents with a particular interest, allowing them to explore a specific scene (from discovering Berlin’s street art to London’s nightly street food tour). In general, very small groups or individual experiences are preferred and itineraries can be customized.
Hyperlocal eating: when the restaurant is too conventional
This particular travel experience is probably not suitable for those who have a phobia of random human interaction. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t go to parties at friends’ houses for fear of having to talk to someone you don’t know, skip to the next paragraph. If, on the other hand, the roulette of meeting new people with some vague notion of common interests fascinates you, kitchen shopping might be for you. Too many English neologisms in one article, I know, but it’s not my fault that new trends never see the light of day in Italy and, frankly, “kitchenhopping” sounds quite ridiculous. The most famous hyperlocal restaurant site right now is Cookening.com, but Eatwith.com is also worth a look. Again, the sites act as connectors for a specific niche of users, who like to share cultural and gastronomic experiences. Individuals, chefs, but also simple food lovers, offer to host a limited number of people in their homes, on specific dates, and to cook and share a meal with them. Those who cook propose a menu, the price per person and specify the number of people they can accommodate, while those who eat can choose to join a table of strangers or look for an empty one to fill only with their friends and travel companions. Prices are generally in line with those of a good restaurant, but the added value is the possibility to experience local life without the typical tourist filters, making direct reports and getting useful information about the most interesting activities and attractions in the area.
Hyper-local marketing: there’s nothing wrong with selling, but you can’t cheat
It is not surprising and, on the contrary, perfectly natural that translating spontaneous behavior into a business trend is a driving force for a marketing industry. However, the hyperlocal market has some specific characteristics that protect target communities from inappropriate or misleading promotion. Promoting in a hyperlocal context, for activities whose target audience is strongly geographically marked, is the best possible investment. The return on investment tends to be higher than traditional means of promotion, but only if the promotional message contains real value for the users. The forum or facebook group of local residents or regular visitors to a certain location, for example, can be the ideal place to promote the opening of a new local business, as it will reach (usually at minimal cost) exactly the audience of interest. If the promotional message is well managed and the product is valuable, results will soon come. However, a product or service that does not live up to the promise, dissatisfied customers, will immediately generate a negative buzz, as disappointed customers will inform other local residents, via the same platform, of the negative experience they have had. Similarly, an irrelevant promotional message (e.g. a generic service site or an online sale) will be rejected or simply ignored by users, who will have the natural desire to keep this particular virtual space dedicated exclusively to interesting and relevant content.