Gtrot, Looking to Create Social Travel Guides, Better Maps Friends’ Globetrotting Plans

7/12/10Follow @xconomy

While on his college spring break in Cancun in 2009, Zachary Smith ran into about a dozen other friends he didn’t know would be there. “The ability to coordinate that ahead of time would have really enriched my travel experience,” says Smith, who graduated from Harvard University last year.

That experience provided the inspiration for gtrot, the startup he co-founded. The Cambridge-based company originated as a senior-year final project, went on to win the I3 Harvard College Innovation Challenge, and is now live online with about 3,000 users.

Gtrot is a Web portal for helping travelers better sync up their globe-trotting plans with their friends. It links to users’ Facebook profiles to pull in information on their friends who have also entered rough travel itineraries into the gtrot site and plots the plans on a map. For you and each of your buddies, gtrot creates a travel profile, showing where you’ve been, where you’re going, and how you’re getting there. (Check out the homepage for a quick demo.) Users can also book flights, hotels, and cabs directly though Kayak.com and Hotels.com plug-ins on the gtrot site—features that automatically then input users’ travel plans to their profiles. (You can choose to keep certain trips private, though).

The website allows you to better integrate your travel plans on several levels. If you’re looking to connect with a particular buddy, you can search the past and upcoming trips of that friend. If you have a set week you’re planning to have off from work or school, and aren’t sure where to go, you can scan your social network based on a particular date. The gtrot site will produce a map marked with the trips friends have input, and you can select a particular location to see which friends will be there. “It creates a heat map of all the places in the world your friends are visiting,” Smith says.

Also, if you already have a trip planned and are curious to see which friends might happen to be in the same city at the time of the trip, you can filter your gtrot search based on the destination and date. This function will help prevent those instances of realizing after the fact that you and a friend were halfway across the globe in the same city together but had no idea.

The company is rolling out a second generation of its service in the next few months, with a focus on integrating consumers’ social media posts into their travel logs. That way, friends can see not just where their compadres have traveled to, but what they thought about and experienced at those places. “It creates a streaming social travel guide based on a user’s experience,” Smith says.

This updated gtrot will capture users’ tweets, Foursquare check-ins, Facebook posts, and the like while they are at a particular destination, and archive them in the users’ travel profile on gtrot. You’ll be able to … Next Page »

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