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by Marta Leite Castro

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Secret City Trails

A new aproach to tourism in large cities.

Secret City Trails takes travellers and locals on urban adventures – or city discovery games.  During our games people solve a trail of riddles. They want to address tourism in many of the world’s great tourist cities, offering people a new way out of the traditional way.

Wendy van Leeuwen

What is Startup’s business based on?

Secret City Trails takes travellers and locals on urban adventures – or city discovery games.  During our games people solve a trail of riddles. Along with each riddle, they unlock stories about the sights and area they are in as well as – secret – recommendations to hidden gems and wonderful cafes and bars. We promote cultural heritage as well as local and independent businesses.

Our city discovery games are playful, self-guided, engaging, affordable and instantly bookable. The games are played via a web app, which works in browser of any smartphone, so no downloads!

We started out in Amsterdam and currently offer our 40+ games in 14 cities across Europe + Singapore. The cities we operate are: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bratislava, Bordeaux, Cologne, Geneva, Haarlem, Lisbon, London, Porto, Rotterdam, San Sebastian and Vienna.

 

How did the idea come about?

We started Secret City Trails as there’s several problems we aim to help solve through our playful city adventures. Firstly, we want to tackle over tourism in many of the world’s big (tourist) cities, by offering people a new way of going off the beaten track. Next, we want to help people experience local spots, by promoting local shops, restaurants and cafes along our routes, supporting local entrepreneurs too!

On top of this, we want to offer an alternative to ‘mass’ walking tours which starts at fixed times, take you to touristy spots, have to be pre-booked and take place in large groups – adding to more congestion in already crowded places. We know that travellers today want experiences that are local, get them to the best spots, are independent, flexible, instantly bookable and affordable.

Lastly, we want to solve the problem of adults no longer playing – games. We passionately believe in the power of PLAY. “playing a city” helps you to truly SEE and EXPERIENCE it. On top of this, playing together is great for get to know one another and it has been scientifically proven to increase well-being and boost creativity, plus productivity.

What is your mission?

Preserving the authenticity of cities through the power of play.

How do you deal with the issue of Financing?

We have just closed our first investment round. Prior to this we also received two grants. One from FutureNow and one from Booking.com.

What is your Customer Acquisition Strategy?

We operate both B2B and B2C. B2C is currently the majority of our business and we acquire new customers (locals and travellers) through referrals, social media marketing and 3rd party sales. We also partner with hop on, hop off buses, hotels and other (travel) brands to acquire customers.

What do you expect for the future of your Startup?

We aim to revolutionise how people discover and enjoy cities. We’re gamifying city discovery and ultimately will reply tour guides with our playful, selfguided adventures. We hope to keep increasing our B2C sales and also grow our partnerships.

What is the best professional advice you have received so far?

Just do it. It’s also Nike’s slogan and the place where Kristina, my cofounder and I, met 4 years ago. Another big learning from the past year is that as a small business it seems attractive to partner with big companies, but that actually didn’t work out for us at all, and working with mid-sized international companies actually makes much more sense! So dream big, but be realistic about what helps you move forward.

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