Over the last year we have been working hard to bring a community of travellers and local experts together, enabling people in new places to find and buy interesting and useful services. That community evolved into what we called the Concierge99 Marketplace.
We’ve had some great successes and have enriched holidays in places such as London, Granada and Lisbon - and want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved thus far. Unfortunately, we just haven’t seen the level of traction in the Concierge99 Marketplace that we need in order to further invest in and grow that part of our offering.
That’s why, in November 2016, we decided to shut down the marketplace area of our broader Concierge99 service to refocus our energies and resources on new and related projects as well as expand some of our existing services - such as the Top 5 Guides (which have been shared over 40,000 times so far), our nascent Chatbot (launched in October 2016) and two new areas we’re very excited about that have launched recently - travel inspired Local Food and Drink Recipes and our Tools to Enrich Travel.
We’d like to take a few moments to reflect on why the Concierge99 Marketplace itself did not work out as, like anything, this is a learning experience.
We firmly believe that enabling local people to provide services to people on holiday is A) a good business model; B) a great way to invigorate local economies; and C) an even better way for people to truly experience a new city. It was and remains a great idea - as evidenced by recent expansions and acquisitions in this space by major players such as Airbnb.
However we were unable to crack two specific areas crucial for any online marketplace:
We would like to sincerely thank everyone who joined the marketplace - those who offered services, those who purchased services and those who just browsed - you all contributed to the success we did manage to have and also to the learnings we take away from closing this area.
We are really excited about the new services that we've chosen to focus our resources on. Take a look at the links above to see all the new developments.
Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns at all. We always love to hear from you and look forward to continuing our relationship in the future.
For a bit of fun, we set ourselves a challenge last week: Can we take some of the travel tips our Top 5 Guides are full of, and make them accessible via a chatbot? We wanted to be able to do it as quickly as possible, with minimal fuss but still create something that might be useful for people AND be a learning experience for us.
With that in mind, I took on the task. I didn’t want to go down the route of building something from scratch and I didn’t want to over complicate matters. So I decided on a single task: Take some existing content and make it accessible via a "very-easy-to-use" chatbot, preferably available to a wide, general audience. And I wanted to do it in an afternoon.
So I spent an hour or so checking to see if there were any SaaS platforms available that would enable me to build the logic behind a chatbot without too much coding. There are a few out there and I eventually settled on FlowXO for a number of reasons, including a free starter option, the ability to branch on conditions, ease of integration with a popular messaging platform (Messenger) and the option to extend the service by adding more complex functionality at a later date.
Using FlowXO, I set up a basic chatbot that presented responses based on inputs from the user using what essentially amounts to a decision tree.
Within about 30 minutes I had the basics of my service ready, using tips from our already existing Granada travel guide. I then tweaked some of the wording so that it appear more human and less like bullet points, submitted it to Facebook for approval and then 24 hours later, it was live!
I have to stress that this isn’t a particularly clever chatbot - it’s basically visual IVR where you can select a few options and get some canned responses. That said, it does what I believe it needs to do - enable people travelling to Granada to receive some expert tips on what to do and where to go in an easy-to-use and intuitive way. Right now there is no reason to make it “appear” any cleverer.
If you feel like it, give it a try! You can get started by saying Hi to Concierge99 on Facebook Messenger or simply following this link.
We are always happy for feedback so fire away and let us know how it goes!
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We continue our Interview Series with an ever more varied and interesting pool of local experts right here in sunny Granada.
Juan José, a local flamenco performer and manager, and his team are a group of talented individuals that offer way more than just your simple musical entertainment at an event; you'll find violinists, Spanish guitarists, soprano singers, even magicians, pianists and of course the cream of the crop, the flamenco dancers themselves.
I love the idea of bringing in performers to an event as I remember very fondly (and with hilarity) a friend's wedding that showcased 'singing waiters' - supposed waiters at the dinner reception that suddenly burst into operatic arias and beautiful renditions of popular songs to the amazement of everyone in the room! The performance blew us away and years later, we're still all talking about it.
Read on to learn more about these Granaino performers in particular. The original interview was conducted in Spanish and that can be found below.
We kicked off the usual probing questions looking for details on Juan José's company, his background and any information we could get from him about the music scene in Granada, especially traditional flamenco. So here goes!
Concierge99: How long have you been doing music performances in Granada?
Juan José: 12 years
Concierge99: What is your favourite part of performing?
Juan José: Seeing people smile, enjoy themselves and get excited for our performances.
Concierge99: Who are your favourite types of clients?
Juan José: Any kind of customer - provided that they are respectful to other customers and to the artists that perform.
Concierge99: Sum up your team in a few words.
Juan José: We are a dynamic company, formed by dedicated professionals, who enjoy what they do, always try to satisfy the audience with high quality performances and good prices.
Concierge99: What should all travellers to Granada know about this city?
Juan José: That Granada is a very welcoming city that takes great care of its tourists. We help solve any problems and strive to integrate the city's visitors with the Granadinos living there.
The spectacular city of Dubrovnik - nicknamed the Pearl of the Adriatic Sea and established in the oh-not-so-distant seventh century, is home to a sea port of azure-blue waters, happy friendly locals and Croatian wine not to be missed. Since Dubrovnik juts into the sea and is surrounded by thick medieval walls, it provides the perfect haven of traffic-less and cobblestoned Old Town to satisfy the history buff while pristine beaches and clear waters thrill the sun seeker. Oh and did I mention that it’s the location for filming the King’s Landing scenes in Game of Thrones? (here's a link to a self-guided tour so you can check out the spots yourself).
While you're visiting this part of Croatia, we recommend the necessary things to do in Dubrovnik to get the most out of your visit plus some restaurant and bar recommendations for the foodie and socialite!
Having established ourselves as bona fide Granada locals by now, we felt the need to update our original Top 5 Guide to Granada with even more insider tips on all the newly opened bars and discovered restaurants we've found during our year of this city so far.
These are spots we've discovered that are each special in their own right: Looking for a bite to eat during the siesta hours and everything seems closed? Or aching for a spot of wine tasting while learning about the local wines with a talented Sommelier? We cover it all here:
We list the necessary 'Things to Do' while you're spending time in Granada, and we're sticking by that advice, but here are some updates on those and a few others we've found in the meantime:
If you're looking for some beauty services while you're in town or a day gym pass to work off the extra calories that come with a holiday, here are the best ones we've found:
Siamac and Julieanne are avid world travellers, sun worshippers and enjoy sharing recommendations of treats they've encountered along the way. With this blog and Concierge99's Top 5 Guides, they can help you make the most of your travels, giving you an opportunity to find interesting and unique things to do wherever you are in the world.
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