CityUnscripted is a travel website I stumbled upon while looking for suggestions to Travel.Differently.
Its promise to turn Travelers into Discoverers stuck out.
Founder & CEO Nick Whitfield was gracious to accept the invite and tell us just how the concept of CityUnscripted came into being – and why we should stand to attention.
Read the interview and see why their unscripted travel style should be the next best way to do city trips.
So tell us, Nick: who is CityUnscripted? What’s your story?
Nick: CityUnscripted connects travelers who want to be discoverers and not tourists with Locals in the know. ‘Book a Local’ – our flagship product – helps visitors get away from scripted excursions by exploring their chosen city with a like-minded Local who will plan a personalized outing based on their interests.
These bespoke experiences uncover the best aspects of a city and help travelers connect more deeply with the city through its people.
CityUnscripted works with a network of 500+ Locals globally, aged from 18-60+ years old, who are collectively fluent in over 25 languages.
This inspiring community of Locals have a wide range of interests and backgrounds and work as Locals in their spare time because they love to meet new people and share the city they know so well.
You become a discoverer not a tourist.
Guided by a local friend, not a global guidebook.
The service is completely trustworthy, safe and secure, as each Local is individually vetted, verified, insured and trained by the CityUnscripted team.
Book a Local
Our Book a Local system allows visitors to review detailed profiles of each Local before selecting the person that matches their preferences and a date and start time.
Locals can then create a personalized itinerary based on what you want to see and do or give advice/insight into their city, making the city more real and human, rather than a checklist of attractions.
Bookings start at £30 an hour for 1-2 adults, children are free.
Globally, city breaks & experiences are growing fast but the tours and experiences market is struggling to keep pace with the changing needs of customers.
Today’s travelers want more. Rather than being treated like a tourist they want a more personal and more authentic experience.
How did you come up with the concept of ‘Book a Local’?
Nick: CityUnscripted was born out of a vision to connect passionate, knowledgeable locals with the discerning modern traveler.
Our mission is to give visitors the ultimate city break experience in every city in the world.
My insight was simple: the best travel experiences I ever had – and, as I soon found out, was the frequent experience of many other travelers – were when I had a friend to show me around in the city I was visiting.
Someone to show me things they knew that was interested in, and someone who could introduce me to the history and culture scene of the city.
With a friend in the city, the city becomes your friend.
Travel is about connecting to the city and its people in a meaningful way. It goes beyond ckecklisting the top attractions which, whilst great, are normally just a scratch on the surface of the city’s real potential.
The best way to give this ‘friend in the city’ type experience was through building a community. A large network of engaging, reliable & knowledgeable locals from many different backgrounds, ages, and interests who want to show off their city with gusto and pleasure, not as in a copy machine business.
Our youngest Local Host at CityUnscripted is 18 and our oldest 73. Our community is formed of an eclectic mix of designers, comedians, photographers, musicians, lawyers, Ph.D.’s and so on – the variety is endless and reflects the multitude of different travelers.
Describe CityUnscripted in a tweet-size soundbite
Connecting travelers to the heart & soul of a city – through its locals.
How many destinations do you currently serve?
Nick: We’re currently present in London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, San Francisco, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Bologna, Edinburgh & Manchester, among others.
We already serve 32 cities globally in Asia, Europe, North America with many more to come soon!
Can you give us a sneak preview?
Nick: Sure! We’re planning to open up our services in Australasia, adding more cities across Asia and India. Next year, South America and North America are pretty high on our list.
What makes CityUnscripted different from GetYourGuide, TourMega, etc.
Nick: GetYourGuide is an aggregator of tours & experiences, they do not curate the quality of their experiences or guides, they are simply the middleman.
We build experiences together with Locals who know and Love the city. So to that end, we’ll interview every Local Host to make sure they meet the required criteria. Our average acceptance ratio is 30% – so we’re careful to always deliver on our promise.
Guests can pick their own Local Host based on shared interests, cultures, backgrounds and so on. This way, we make sure the experience isn’t just about ticking off the top attractions, but rather making a connection, and getting a real understanding and feel for the real city as the locals enjoy it.
Do you have a process in place to ‘test’ your locals?
Nick: As I mentioned, every Local has their knowledge is tested during our interview process.
For example, they must have lived in the city for at least one year – but actually, the average across all our locals is over 13 years. We also get ID, home address and bank account details whilst confirming their right to work in the city.
Local hosts must be able to demonstrate particular skills or interests that we know our guests prefer. We also use trusted locals in the city to train and vet other locals, where we see room for improvement.
CityUnscripted comes with a money back guarantee policy, if guests aren’t happy with their experience – that’s how confident we want people to be.
The ultimate test are the reviews: from the 400+ we have received is 4.9 out of 5 on average.
Customized City Visits
What levels of personalization are available with CityUnscripted?
Nick: Full personalization – basically as it would be with a friend in the city. From the choice of meeting place, to choosing where to go – spontaneously during the experience – to extending the time (if required and possible)
Our Locals offer proper personalization and we can also match guests to locals, based on their interests and requirements.
Where to from here?
What’s cooking next for CityUnscripted?
Nick: We are growing really fast at the moment. The challenge is to keep up with demand and scale to many more cities and many more locals, so we are raising money right now to accelerate the process.
We want to give travelers the opportunity to dramatically improve their city travel experiences so focus on giving the travelers the content, locals, and experiences that they want and excite them!
Tell us a bit about your travel style
Nick: I’ve lived overseas for much of my life – in the middle-east and Africa. I have always loved to travel widely. My style varies depending on who I’m with.
What remains the same is that I always travel independently and try to stay in authentic settings- renting an apartment or house.
I love adventure and always seek it out and try to get to know and understand the people and the culture of wherever I’m visiting. Food, politics, history, and activities are what makes me tick me and what I always seek out!
Nick, thank you so much for the interview and for giving us a glimpse into CityUnscripted!
I’ve decided to try out CityUnscripted in my home city, Barcelona, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the city with different eyes.
Next : Go Unscripted in Barcelona!