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Toronto website capitalizes on millennials' desire for 'authentic' travel

Lokafy.com connects millennial tourists with local guides who can take them off the beaten path.

Katerina Valle, originally from Peru, loves taking tourists on bike rides through Queen West and Trinity Bellwoods.

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Katerina Valle, originally from Peru, loves taking tourists on bike rides through Queen West and Trinity Bellwoods.

What Kiran Samra remembers most about backpacking through Europe is touring Budapest with a young Hungarian friend, talking about the history of the city, and what it was like to live there.

“I really got to know the place more intimately,” she said.

That experience led the 34-year-old to create Lokafy, a Toronto-based website that matches visitors to local guides who can show them their favourite nooks and crannies in the city – for a fee.

The site is the latest service looking to capitalize on millennial travel trends. Whether it’s Lokafy, Airbnb or Couchsurfing.com, studies show younger travellers are on the lookout for more personalized travel options. 

A 2015 survey by the Canadian Tourism Commission found millennial travel was driven by “culture sampling, need for uniqueness, personal expression, and pursuit of novelty.”

“People are sharing their experiences, they’re sharing photos, so you want to do something that’s unique, because everyone has the same photos,” Samra said.

Toronto Lokafyer Katerina Valle, originally from Peru, said she feels travel has become “a commodity.” Connecting with locals, she said, offers a more authentic travel experience.

“There are so many people who are travelling all over the world but not getting anything from it. You want to be that person who gets it,” the 25-year-old said.

Toronto is also home to a branch of the Global Greeters Network. Whereas Lokafy guides are paid, Global Greeters is volunteer run, and available in 100 cities worldwide.

Jamie Maxwell of the Toronto chapter was quick to stress the service is “not a tour.”

 “It’s the hidden gems that you can’t find on a visitor guide,” he said. “People are more inclined now to look beyond just the big things, and to find out, hey the Beach, awesome neighbourhood, who knew?”

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