SAN FRANCISCO — When Ruzwana Bashir traveled to Istanbul a few years back, she created an Excel file of everything she planned to do on the trip with her friends there, down to their phone numbers and addresses. Her friends loved her planning so much it became the template for all their travels.
The response was so great, she says, that she thought, "Hang on, why don't I start a website where I can take tips from my friends and use them when I'm traveling?"
She and co-founder Oskar Bruening created Peek.com, which launched earlier this year, as a sort of travel guidebook-meets-hotel concierge. The difference: All the activities written about on the website are clickable and bookable from home.
Bashir, 29, worked at start-ups Art.sy and Gilt after graduating from Oxford and Harvard Business School before launching the new website. In between, she got in lots of exotic travel, in places such as Istanbul, Brazil and Mongolia.
"I found that booking a hotel was easy, but when it came to activities, I would spend hours researching," she says. "I was looking at hundreds of websites. Travel planning is a pain."
Bashir says the average person spends seven hours planning a trip and goes to 22 different websites.
On Peek.com, celebrities and public figures such as CNN's Piers Morgan and designer Tory Burch write about how to spend the "perfect day" in places such as San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands, while users chime in with destinations around the world. Peek offers bookable activities in San Francisco, San Diego and Hawaii, and expects to expand to Los Angeles in January, Miami and New York in the spring. By the end of 2013, she hopes to be in international locations as well.
"I love the visuals," says Christine Ciarmello, deputy editor of Sunset magazine. "It feels like a magazine to me."
Tech news site CNet raved, calling Peek "the traveler's do-it-all digital concierge." Bookings have gone up 200% since the site started just two months ago, says Bashir.
Peek is backed by celebrity investors, including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Christopher Michel, founder of Military.com. They ponied up $1.4 million to fund the site.
Michel is a frequent traveler who welcomed Bashir's idea. He's just returned from Burma (also known as Myanmar), where he photographed balloon rides in the desert. He sees Peek evolving into a website where people like him could share their own "amazing" stories. "It's really hard to uncover really cool things to do for travel online," he says.
Bashir says the site will make money by the commissions it gets on the activities, but that consumers won't pay a premium for booking through Peek.
What's with the name?
"We wanted to offer an insight into all the hidden gems that you might not ordinarily find," she says. "So it's a peek into the best holiday you could possibly have."Source: http://www.news.theusalinks.com/2012/12/21/start-up-travel-site-offers-a-peek-at-hidden-gems/