It was one of the first peer-to-peer (P2P) experience-finding platforms out there, and after nearly a decade of operation, it shut down in November 2019.
“Goodbye. It’s been a great adventure. Thank you for joining us. We’re now off to new adventures. We hope you are too,” reads a new landing page on Vayable’s website, with links to other experience-focused sites.
Founded in 2010 by Jamie Wong, Vayable was designed to be a global marketplace for local-led tours, activities, and experiences. The ability to empower locals to generate a new source of income was baked into Vayable’s mission statement. Tour offerings ranged from private dinners to underground history to street art experiences.
Wong says she loved building Vayable to help guides and travelers connect, but it felt like time for a change. “Our majority investor, Erik Blachford, needed an investing partner with a founder/operator background at the same time, and that just seemed like serendipity,” explains Wong. “So we jointly decided to let Vayable go, and for me to join as a partner at Pine5 Ventures.”
Pine5 Ventures is a VC firm that invests in early-stage consumer tech companies—some of which are travel-focused, such as TourRadar, Travelingspoon, Tastemakers Africa, and more.
While Vayable was centered on connecting locals with travelers, Wong says many individual guides on the platform later started their own companies and continued to offer such experiences on the site.
The main takeaway? While peer-to-peer tour platforms have a lot of buzz, it’s a tough space to make work. The big question surrounding this model has been simple: can it scale? Can online marketplaces acquire enough supply—enough individuals with unique and compelling experiences—to make the model work? And do travelers want to have local experiences with individuals, or would they rather do classic touristic experiences? Vayable is not the first P2P platform to close its doors. GetYourGuide, in fact, got its start as a P2P platform, before it pivoted to become a more traditional online travel agency marketplace for tours and activities.
Still, plenty of companies believe there’s an opportunity in this arena. In Arival’s Guide to Digital Distributors published in 2019, we identified upwards of 18 companies offering local-led tours, activities, and experiences similar to Vayable. Netherlands-based Withlocals has raised more than €12M, and then of course there are Airbnb Experiences.
As more travelers seek authentic tours, there seems to be an opportunity for peer-to-peer platforms to continue in the future. Vayable wasn’t one of them.