Vancouver travel professional Lia Hershkovitz is looking to change the way the LGBTQ community travels, with her new online platform Guide Me Away.
Now currently looking for crowd sourced funding through Indiegogo, we find out more about Guide Me Away from Hershovitz in this Q&A.
Tell us about Guide Me Away – what is it and why is it important?
Guide Me Away is a new online platform that connects LGBTQ travelers with local guides so that it becomes easier to get both an insider’s local perspective on a new city, and connect with the LGBTQ community wherever you go. Locals can come up with any kind of tour, post it at a reasonable price and share their passions and their city – from sport activities, bike tours, bar hoping, showing off a neighborhood – it’s a great way for a local guide to make some extra cash, and for a traveller to get to know a new city in a non-traditional way. But the website is more than just a travel aid – it’s an important way to connect the global gay community together, and make it accessible so that people will feel comfortable to be who they are no matter where they go.
Where did the idea for Guide Me Away come from?
The idea came from personal needs of friends, family and myself. Many people now are looking for ways to connect to the heart of a destination, and really get to know a city for more than just its tourist spots. The best way to do that is to meet up with the people who make a city great – its locals! So many great travel stories are not as much about where you are, but rather who you are with – and as a gay traveller, I always look to connect with the gay community so that I can be comfortable and be myself. But I have to say, it’s not nearly as much fun to go to a gay bar alone, or even with a travel companion whether it be friend or partner. It’s hard to know where the good spots are, and information found ahead of time can be very out of date. I would much rather meet up with someone who can show me where to go, and make a new friend! Guide Me Away is a labour of love for my fellow gay travellers, so that we can find each other easier, safer, and really build a global community.
Guide Me Away will rely heavily on “guides” signing up in cities to help – why would someone sign up and what’s in it for them?
The best part I think about this platform is the fact that everyone is welcome to be who they are – loud, different, and special. We embrace our differences and celebrate it. Local guides can make long lasting friendships doing the things they love doing anyways and get paid for it. The local guides decides what kind of activity they want to offer, who it will be best for and set their own rate for it. You can find a new ski buddy and get paid for it. You can take someone on a photo tour of your neighbourhood. Again, everyone can be a guide; all you need is to be honest, open and friendly. Also, once you are a guide, you can also set yourself up as a Guide Me Away traveler – how great it will be when you guide someone in your own county and then they do the same for you in their country? You know you are welcome anywhere you go with Guide Me Away.
How do you vet the guides to ensure quality and safety?
The guides will be verified by email and/or Facebook. Guide Me Away has a review system for travelers to review their experiences and to give feedback to their guide. In addition, every profile is verified internally by the developers before a guide can list an activity. We are continually developing the safety and security features of the site, and hope to increase the functionality in this area with the funds from the Indiegogo campaign.
Your Indiegogo campaign talks of you having been looking for some way to give back to the LGBTQ community since you came out at age 15. Why was it important for you to give back?
I came out when I was very young and faced challenges with family and especially in school. But there is something really beautiful about finding your place in the world, and especially in a community as vibrant and unique as the global gay community. I am fascinated by how we are all connected, no matter where we live. The gay community is so much bigger than the boundaries of our cities. I am passionate about traveling and meeting people and hearing their stories, and Guide Me Away really came from a place of wanting to connect people together, and connect the community together in ways that haven’t been done before.
You are looking to raise $25,000 to crowdfund the site – what is the money going to be used for?
Currently, Guide Me Away is in testing, but the site needs development, so a big portion of the Indiegogo campaign will go to hiring a developer to continue improving functionality of the platform, from safety and security to overall layout. The other big piece is for marketing – spreading the word starting with some west coast cities in Canada and the US and moving into other geographical areas.
What is your revenue model?
My revenue model is very simple. Guide Me Away receives 20% of the service charge of each activity booked. If the guide charges $100 for the activity, Guide Me Away will receive $20 from the booking. This is for the maintenance of the website and all that comes with it.
You can find out more about Guide Me Away at http://indiegogo.com.
(GayVancouver.Net is in no way associated with Guide Me Away. GayVancouver.Net recommends you always do your due diligence before donating to any crowd source campaign)