By Maximilian Clarke

A new paradigm is slowly spreading through the lucrative travel industry; an approach to travel that offers travellers an opportunity to peer beneath the shallow and overpriced world of tourism and into heart of the city that locals see.

Social Travel essentially allows users to sublet rooms to travellers for a small fee, via a central organiser. The companies typically take a small commission from the letter and from the traveller, in exchange for ensuring the security of both.

Wimdu, a website set up by 23 year-old entrepreneur, Michael Riegel, is one such company. Set up in March this year, the business has been catapulted to the forefront of the growing social travel market, thanks in part to a $90m investment from Rocket Internet.

Wimdu’s approach differs from rivals, including Airbnb and Tripping in its highly decentralised approach. The large investment from the German internet startup investors has allowed the company to set up some 16 regional offices around the world, helping the business achieve a local focus in some 54 countries worldwide.

"Our community is our core asset,” says Michael. “We therefore set up offices in the main countries we operate in and we decided to have dedicated local teams on-hand 24h7 to serve both our hosts’ and our guests’ needs. This approach has allowed us to build a safe community and have a close relationship with our hosts"

This decentralised approach has the business better vet both the property letters and travellers, ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction which in turn leads to repeat business, helping the company rapidly grow to 20,000 properties worldwide.

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