Wanderfly’s Technology Feeds Wanderlust on The New York Times’ Travel Pages

For vacationers who are unsure of where to go for their next trip, New York’s Wanderfly is bringing its recommendation technology to a broad audience of travelers. Last Wednesday, technology from Wanderfly began running on some 1,000 travel pages hosted by The New York Times, according to Christy Liu, co-founder and director of marketing for Wanderfly. Her company’s website and technology offers users ideas on where to travel based on such criteria as personal interests and price range. The new partnership puts Wanderfly in front of readers visiting The New York Times‘s travel section and makes good on the startup’s plans for funding it raised early this year.

Two-year-old Wanderfly raised $1 million in February from investors such as Charles River Ventures; MentorTech Ventures; Jason Calacanis, CEO and founder of Mahalo; and Path co-founder and CEO Dave Morin. Part of that funding was put towards bringing Wanderfly’s technology on partner websites. Wanderfly has raised a total of $1.4 million, says Liu, since its inception.

Under the partnership with The New York Times, Wanderfly’s technology generates travel recommendations that appear in the left margin of the Web pages, based in part on the destinations the readers are already viewing. “If you are on the New York City page, you might also like L.A. or Milan,” Liu says. “That is powered by our data.”

Wanderfly’s website lets users choose a price range for a trip, and select interests such as hot destinations for singles, history, beaches, food, and landmarks. The idea is to guide users who are looking for vacation ideas to new getaways. “We correlate and draw relationships between different types of travel destinations”, says Liu. The trips are paired with activities rather than just details on travel and lodgings. Hotels, travel bookers, and the tourism trade are also meant to benefit from such recommendations, Liu says.

“Our goal is to create a better TripAdvisor,” Liu says. “We want to create a social platform for travel with structured data.” Wanderfly gathers information on activities from sources such as AOL Travel, Rough Guides, and Not For Tourists. Liu’s company also produces lists of destinations that are curated by lifestyle brands, tastemakers, and others such as Urban Daddy and Mint. “They might set up a list of local picks and then produce original content around the places they recommend,” Liu says.

Wanderfly partners with Hotels.com and Orbitz and is developing relationships with other companies for users to book their accommodations.

Other media outlets, such as British newspaper The Telegraph, have already incorporated Wanderfly’s technology into their travel website. Liu says Wanderfly created a micro website, which launched at the beginning of the summer, in conjunction with The Telegraph and Jeep to help the automaker associate itself with adventurous travelers in Britain. “They use our search technology on that micro site,” Liu says.

Christy Liu and the other co-founders of Wanderfly plan to relaunch their website with new features in three months.

Also last Wednesday, she says, CoolCapitals.com began using Wanderfly’s search technology on its city pages. Cool Capitals is a joint promotional effort by the tourism boards in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Valencia, Vienna, and Zürich. “They have an alliance to showcase art and design related activities within these cities,” Liu says. Austria’s tourism board has also sought Wanderfly’s technology, she says.

In addition to forging new partnerships, Wanderfly plans to relaunch its website in about three months to include more user-generated content, according to Liu. “We believe that recommendations can come from a variety of sources,” she says. “People with the best knowledge of a place have been there.” The company also plans to seek more funding after the relaunch.

Wanderfly’s four co-founders are all graduates from the University of Pennsylvania who made their way to separate jobs in New York City after graduation. “We’ve known each other some 10 years,” Liu says. In 2008, the quartet started their first company, Living Breathing, which is a digital marketing firm. Living Breathing has worked with clients such as Ford, Nintendo, and NBC Universal, but Liu says the founders wanted to put their skills to work creating their own product. They founded Wanderfly in 2009 and launched the website last October. Liu says she and her co-founders remain involved in Living Breathing’s management but not its day-to-day operations.

Liu says Wanderfly plans to build more partnerships, especially with hotels, to share input on travel destinations. “Hotel concierges are a wealth of knowledge about local destinations,” she says.

Wanderfly has a staff of about a dozen after what Liu describes as an aggressive hiring season. “I think we have made the last hire that we need for this stage of the business,” she says.

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