The days of lugging around 500-page Lonely Planet travel guides are fast becoming a distant memory for vacation-goers. Modern travelers are instead finding digital inspiration in the simplicity of Pinterest, Facebook, and Google Destinations. The new Sherpa travel app offers a unique twist by creating targeted, visual guides from Instagram’s best photos.
Sherpa’s concept is a simple one. The team works with well-respected, highly skilled photographers in 90 countries to geotag photos that beautifully represent destinations around the world. Last week, the app launched with more than half-a-million photos in its database which translates to 15,000 travel guides all presented as browsable albums. Behind the scenes, the company is collaborating directly with more than 2,000 travel photographers. The travel guides reflect the diversity of these “micro-influencers,” offering travel styles that range from “broke backpacker” to adrenalin-loving adventure traveler to luxury vacationer.
Users simply download the app, provide an email address, and link their Sherpa account to Instagram. From there, select a “home base” (wherever you call home), and optionally let the app organize your personal Instagram photos by location. Like the Instagram app, photos can be searched by entering a particular destination or, if you’re seeking general travel inspiration, click the “trending locations” to see what’s hot. Users can file favorited photos into a travel “suitcase.” Over time, Sherpa learns from these pinned destinations and will intelligently show you more pictures of places it thinks you’ll be interested in. This is not an app for travel planning (booking flights, hotels, car rentals); it’s all about raw inspiration.
The team behind the app includes CEO Paul Aaron, former head of a professional design studio that worked with heavy-hitter brands like UNICEF and Coca-Cola. While developing a client application, he found inspiration in the clunky, non-intuitive user interfaces of many of today’s mobile apps. Figuring there had to be a better alternative, he set out to build one. Which is why Sherpa’s layout and design are straightforward and simple. Plus, because of the honesty inherent in (most) photography, it’s also less susceptible to the rampant fraud found in most crowdsourced travel review websites.
After a successful six-month beta testing phase, Sherpa has finally been released into the wild. It’s available to download now for free via the Apple Store.