A team of young Puerto Ricans behind San Juan-based Local Guest unveiled Wednesday an online platform offering “experiential tourism” options as an economic development engine.
Local Guest is dedicated exclusively to offering unique destination experiences to both residents and international visitors, consistent with the evolution of the world travel and tourism industry, representatives said.
“Experience tourism is not just born from the need to evolve beyond homogenized mass tourism and create an authentic connection to the destination, but is also based on the sustainable development of everybody involved and the strengthening of communities,” said Carmen Portela, co-founder of Local Guest.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization, 75 percent of millennials are looking for a travel experience that offers something new. In line with the digital age and the rising sharing economy, Local Guest seeks to responds to a new generation of “curious and insatiable” travelers who demand and expect more from each travel experience.
This shift in travel expectations may be attributed to social media and specialized travel blogs, but what is undeniable is that these new travelers seek inspiration, entertainment and a bit of self-discovery in everything they do.
Local Guest was created by a group of young Puerto Rican professionals who have taken it upon themselves to diversify the island’s tourism product and foster economic development consistent with the changing behavior of travelers.
They recognize that tourism is the single economic sector that remains solid despite the current financial crisis, but realize that it has not progressed to embrace the shifts in the world travel and tourism industry, such as the emergence of experiential tourism, they said.
Local Guest curates tourism experiences and connects travelers to genuine experience hosts. The platform divides experiences in the following categories: nature/adventure (Adventure Galore), gastronomy (Foodies Galore), art/culture (Artsy Scene), aquatic (Water Escape) and celebrations/nightlife (Party Vibes).
“Our business model uses as a starting point the development of experiences in island municipalities with the most distressing poverty levels. In conjunction with the area host, we seek to develop authentically local tourism experiences that stimulate visitor traffic and generate employment,” said Mónica Pérez, Local Guest co-founder.
Anyone can become a Local Guest host, such as Juan Cruz, host of the El Comerieño experience. El Comerieño begins with a kayaking trip along La Plata river, followed by lunch made with local produce at the Adicto a la Tierra farm.
Afterward, visitors will join the resident workers at the farm where they can feed the animals, help with the farming, and swim in the river. The experience concludes with a visit to the only sunflower field in the center of the island.
“In Comerío we are developing many collaborative community efforts; Local Guest is the perfect channel to drive new opportunities and create awareness of our rural town as a travelers’ destination,” said Cruz.
Along with him, other hosts from areas around the island have already joined the Local Guest team composed by leaders in tourism and digital marketing.