It’s 9:06 AM in Trier, Germany right now. I began creating an itinerary to Lisbon at exactly 9:01 AM with Utrip, and apparently their contention you can create a trip in 5 minutes is true. That is, if you’re wanting a recommendation engine to suggest for you. Otherwise, users of this interesting travel tool will need more time.
Let me say this first, so the reader continues reading through, Utrip is a brilliant idea. For a certain kind of traveler, these developers have put in place the right user interface and features to help make tourism a snap! Really. Now on to some screens and maybe some improvements Utrip can make to snatch your attention, and mine.
The screenshot above shows the map selection aspect which users can elect to use to pick their destination, Like most startups, Utrip suffers a bit from a lack of content, or places to visit within its framework, as you can see. Even still, Western Europe is a pretty big sphere of coverage.
Having picked my dates on the start page, I then selected Portugal, and Lisbon, I arrived at the second “filter” aspect. This part of Utrip, I actually like a lot. As you can tell, the user gets to quickly narrow down what type of trip is desired. I say quickly because the upper tabs categorize the user fast, but it does take a bit if one chooses to manually adjust the default filters like budget, and so on. I chose moderate, just to be in the middle, which I later found may have been a mistake. You see one person’s “moderate” is another person’s roach motel experience. More on that later.
Now here’s where Utrip establishes a great value (like all recommendation matrices), while losing a lot of potential users. As you can see by the image below, Utrip has filtered by my criteria, and recommended what amounts to a super detailed itinerary of places to stay, eat, and visit. New users will actually find this extraordinary, as I did. The ease and completeness being flawless, actually. But underneath, where the user meets the pavement in Lisbon? Let me just say this, Google and other tech innovations have taught us, the wizard behind the curtain often leaves a lot to be desired. While the location of Hotel Principe Real is okay, three reviews on Google and less than stellar neighbors is not what I meant by “moderate” budget. Setting aside graffiti street blues for a moment, there’s better locations and accommodations all over Lisbon.
To be fair here, a lot of people are not into minute planning of their travel itineraries. And this is the niche Utrip most caters too. Utrip is a superstar, especially for an early startup, for putting together a complex trip and fast. So, there’s always going to be some difference or dissatisfaction with the suggestions. This can happen even if one uses Frommers to iron out a stay. That said, Utrip should perhaps add in a button for picky travelers? The day to day calendar/map wonder the tool delivers (second below) is the best I’ve seen, however feeble any of the suggestions may be. Still, Google Street shows a neighborhood I’m not dreaming about.
Utrip says they just received $750,000 in funding. My assessment is, the money is well invested. The people are Virtuoso (travel agencies coalition), CB Alliance (equity), could be looking at a real winner here. As for the backend filtering mechanisms, I’ll contact the developers to gain some insight there. Clearly, if a tool fails in any one aspect in a short duration test, logic tells us there’s other bugs to be sorted. Just so the reader knows, a visitor to Lisbon could stay around the corner from this hotel on the thoroughfare at Sofitel for the same price. Just saying.