After working for some of North America’s leading brands, Kim Bennett was inspired to start AtlasGuru, a publishing platform where travellers can share their stories and misadventures. During our interview, Kim discusses her own experience in the marketing industry, the value of self-authoring platforms to travellers, and how these websites can ultimately democratize the travel writing industry.
What inspired you to start AtlasGuru?
I love to travel and explore this incredible planet. In particular, I enjoy researching and daydreaming about travel. While I always include experts in my research, like Lonely Planet, Afar, or Rick Steves, I’ve always struggled to find detailed itinerary suggestions from real people without having to dig through cumbersome online forums. Even then, it’s difficult to get the context of a region without maps and images. Travel is all about locations and the vibe of the culture—you need maps and images to convey that when you’re researching.
I’ve also found that few resources provide the authentic practical advice that travellers crave, like trip highlights (and low lights), the essential items to pack, and what they would have changed about their trip if they could do it again.
But the biggest challenge is that the travel industry is obsessively focused on bookings and reviews. There is an ocean of detailed information on restaurants and hotels, but this isn’t helpful when you start planning a trip and you’re trying to figure out which cities to visit during your 10 days in Europe. When you start travel research, you need to see the big picture and get the lay of land. Yet, most travel sites want to tell you which hotel to book in a city before you even determine if it’s a worthwhile part of your itinerary.
What was your previous experience in the travel and marketing space?
As a traveler, I’ve visited 24 countries across 6 continents and I’m just getting started. Travel has always been a big part of my life. Professionally, I’ve led marketing teams for some great retail brands, like Nordstrom, Amazon, Martha Stewart and Conde Nast. This taught me how to listen to the nuance of customers’ needs and craft a top-notch digital experience. With AtlasGuru, we’ve spent hours interviewing travellers about their experience using the platform, and we make weekly updates based on this invaluable input.
How do you think self-authoring platforms will shape the travel writing industry?
People have so many amazing travel stories that they want to share, but setting up and managing a blog is way too much work for most would-be writers. Plus, blogs are built for long form articles, not travel stories—they struggle to do a good job of conveying the richness of travel, which requires tying together maps, images and itineraries to provide critical context. Purpose-built travel authoring platforms like AtlasGuru open up the playing field to a new category of travel writers, giving them a visually engaging platform to showcase their adventures, and letting them focus on the story rather than the technology. In many ways it democratizes travel writing.
How do you think self-authoring platforms will shape the way people travel? Does this align with other travel trends?
It’s incredibly valuable to read travel stories and advice from a non-biased person. I still find guide books and travel publishers useful, but having authentic voices sharing their highs and lows of a trip are what I find most helpful. Trip Advisor really catapulted this concept in the hotel review space, and Medium with their long form storytelling. Self-authoring platforms definitely shape the way people travel—it’s already proven with the explosion of travel bloggers. It’s exciting to see AtlasGuru grow and evolve in this space by gathering a huge collection of travel stories in one location, and in a format that’s easy to search and find inspiration.