Proving it's still possible to come up with an original idea, these brand-new companies are all hoping to leave their mark on the travel industry.
Company: Keen Guides In 2004, Catherine McNally — deaf since she was 8 months old — was at a museum and asked for an alternative to the audio tour… only to be handed a 50-page manuscript. Talk about an “aha” moment. Today, her company makes mobile tours available on iTunes that use captions and American Sign Language; there are currently 136 tours available in Seattle, New Orleans and the Washington, DC, area, among others. While funding is pending, McNally is charging full-speed ahead with plans to reach 1,111 sites across the US by November.
The Message: “I am using my work to bring greater awareness for inclusive accessibility in cultural tourism,” McNally says. www.keenguides.com
Company: Off and Away How about this for a deal: $29.40 for two nights at New York’s Hotel on Rivington ($1,313 value)? Or $31.50 for a two-night stay at The Setai in Miami ($3,743 value). Savings of 80% to 90% are par for the course on this hotel suite auction site founded by former Amazon.com execs Doug Aley and Michael Walton. Users buy packages of $1 bids to use on auctions; for every bid, the price goes up by $.10 and up to 15 seconds is added to the clock. Last one to bid before the time runs out wins a big-ticket hotel stay, while losers earn real dollars toward deals at more than 100,000 hotels.
The Message: “There are amazing hotel suites that very few ever see and fewer experience," Aley says, "so we thought they could be showcased and made available to normal people, not just celebrities and dignitaries.” www.offandaway.com
Company: Planely This fledgling social networking company is the brainchild of three guys — Nick Martin, Paul Kirkaas and Gorm Casper — who just wanted to get to know their fellow passengers. And they want you to do the same. Just register your flight on the site, and you can connect with other travelers — whether it’s meeting for a post-flight coffee (they are hoping to launch 100 “Planely Meeting Points” in airports this year) or changing seats to sit together on the ride.
The Message: “We decided to embark on a mission to socialize the air travel industry. Whether you use Planely or not, don’t let that stop you from saying hello to the person next to you…. You’ll be amazed at how much fun it is,” Martin says. www.planely.com