Today’s podcast interview is with the founder of Spotted by Locals, Bart van Poll. Learn how Bart took an idea and turned it into a network for local experts to share their best tips. The blog and community Spotted by Locals is a great resource for travelers. Tips in their city guides are written by locals who actually live in these cities. Bart, who is originally from the Netherlands, will explain how he monetized the Spotted by Locals website and made it profitable. For most people, just starting such a website is difficult, but making money from it is even more challenging. Bart succeeded in this.
We discuss emerging locations, overtourism, Bart’s favorite destinations, how he travels, and his thoughts on Google getting into the travel space.
It is the future: emerging destinations that have avoided over-tourism. People are looking to finally go do something else and the pandemic has helped in that way.
📍 On focus in the travel industry
“At the moment, we cover 81 cities across North America, Europe, and the Middle East. we write about spots that aren’t super touristic. We focus on cities that are less than touristy, emerging destinations in the last three years only.”
“It is the future: emerging destinations that have avoided over-tourism. It’s been a buzzword for a long time and people are looking to finally go do something else. And the pandemic has helped in that way. I think people want to experience less crowded places. I’m happy we made the choice to focus on these destinations”.
📍On little-known, misunderstood Chișinău, Moldova
“The way the YouTuber Bald and Bankrupt talks about Chișinău doesn’t do it justice. I think it’s a pretty lovely city actually with low-rise buildings and really friendly locals. It has a lot of problems everywhere, but it’s a charming place I really try to promote it to friends. But Bald and Bankrupt did get me interested in visiting so maybe the tourist board can be grateful (for the exposure)”
📍On Yerevan and former Soviet countries
“I am very drawn to former Soviet Union countries and cities. I can’t really explain why. Yerevan has this old Soviet Union architecture. It’s dark in some places, and super cheap. But the history of Armenia is just amazing. If you read about these people, you will almost think they are inhuman, because of how they have managed to survive and thrive. And their culture is unique. The city of Yerevan is older than Rome. It has a lot to offer in terms of culture as well. The food is amazing, I love the people there, I’m a big fan of Yerevan.”
📍 On how Bart started the website
“In 2008, we hopped in the car, and we went to 20 cities and six months. And just talked to people there and asked them to ask their friends if they would be interested (in writing for the website). They asked their friends that’s how we got the ball rolling. Some ‘spotters’ have their own travel blogs, some are tour guides. But this is definitely the minority, maybe 10 or 20%. The rest are just people who love their city, who like writing, and who want to spread the word about their city – from taxi drivers to CEOs of big companies.”
📍On working with destination tourist boards
“Usually, they don’t really understand what we’re doing before we actually meet them. But we explain to them what they’re doing. They’re usually super enthusiastic. Two years ago, we went to Yerevan, and we talked to the assistant minister of Armenian tourism. She laid out the red carpet for us. But sometimes [tourist boards] don’t understand what we’re doing. They hook us up with all the tourist highlights. They want us to promote the big tourist hotels. We have to explain to them that this is not what we think tourism is about for us. Sometimes I think we have an educational role as well for emerging countries.”
📍On competition and Google as a competitor
“We’re always looking out for competition and we’re trying to stay ahead of it by expanding to new cities. I think that’s what makes it difficult [for competitors] to catch up with us. Google will keep growing, definitely, but I think there’s also an increasing proportion of people who just don’t want to involve Google in their life, at least as little as possible. I hear people around me having the same feeling about this. I think there’s a future for independent travel bloggers, even independent publishers. I see this as a positive for sure.”
Links & More Information
Websites & social media links:
- Peloponnese, Greece
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Athens, Greece
- New Zealand
- Yerevan, Armenia
- Tbilisi, Georgia
- Thessaloniki, Greece
- Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- Chișinău, Moldova
- Nate Hake from Travel Lemming
- Bald and Bankrupt – Video on Chișinău
- Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere
👉 Podcast edited with Descript