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Cool Cousin and the Future of Travel

Cool Cousin and the Future of Travel

“People want a say in how their city is appreciated”: Cool Cousin and the Future of Travel

TripAdvisor used to brand itself as the “World’s most trusted travel site”. Yep, that actually happened. To put this claim in proportion, that’s a bit like Cambridge Analytica describing itself as the “World’s most trusted consulting firm”. Or me describing myself as the “World’s most trusted semi-detached house”. It’s just not true.TripAdvisor has consistently been at the centre of scandal: from the Cornish hotel that bribed guests to write good reviews, to the non-existent restaurant—‘The Shed at Dulwich’—that, thanks to a Vice journalist, ended up at the top of TripAdvisor’s rankings for restaurants in London. Eventually, TripAdvisor executives stopped finding their trademark delightfully ironic so in 2013, after a string of lawsuits, they changed their tagline to a more modest boast—the “World’s largest travel site”.

Fundamentally, the problem with TripAdvisor is that it gives too much power to the anonymous traveller. Anyone can post reviews (or be paid to post reviews) and, in that process, harm an entire city’s tourist industry. At Box News, we look into problems like this one—problems of corruption, misinformation and mismanagement. And then we keep an eye out for the people who want to bring about change. So, we spoke to Cool Cousin, a new traveltech venture, who offer something new. On their app, users can connect with locals (“Cousins”) who show off their favourite places to eat, drink, dance, and whatever-verb-is-used-for-walking-slowly-through-a-gallery. All of these Cousins have a profile that tells the user how old they are, what they do, and then shows their map—their unique guide to their city. If you have questions, you can simply message the Cousin and they’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

Callum Hale-Thomson, Cool Cousins’s Head of Business Development explained to me why their app keeps travellers happy. “We live in a world of information overload. We’re constantly being bombarded by websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp,” Callum said. “All we want is to be guided, and to be given something that’s super relevant to us and has not been driven by corporate interests.” In other words, we want the advice of someone who can unlock a city for us. We want a local’s perspective: “You want to be guided by your Cousin because you trust them, on an emotional and personal level, and you’d like to think they’re not going to rip you off.” “It’s why all of our descriptions aren’t just recommendations of a place, it explains why the local goes there, and what they do there.”

But Cool Cousin isn’t just for the benefit of travellers. They also want to help out locals. “We’re seeing huge amounts of over-tourism in cities. Look at Barcelona: there are marches saying, “Refugees welcome. Tourists go home.” La Rambla – it’s full of tourist traps. Whereas, we might tell you that 15 minutes away, there’s a fantastic tapas bar and that’s been run by the same family for 100 years. You can go there, it’ll be cheaper, and you’ll be supporting the local economy. And our cousins will tell you how to behave there, what to order, and how to be respectful.”

  And locals have responded enthusiastically. “Locals are so willing to be those cultural ambassadors, not for any financial gain. I was shocked when I discovered that our cousins love to reply to messages. People want a say in how their city is appreciated. What we’re trying to do is give those locals a voice and let them say, “Look, this is my city and how I live my life and this is how you can be part of that life.””

Author: Alex Hill

Talking of Mental Health

Talking of Mental Health

Talking of Mental Health

There’s good news and bad news in Accenture’s recent report on mental health in the workplace. The bad news first: the sheer scale of the problem is even larger than we had previously thought. Two-thirds of UK workers have reported personal experience of mental health challenges and 85 per cent say that someone close to them has. “We’re used to hearing that one in four people experience mental health challenges,” said Barbara Harvey, mental health lead for Accenture’s business in the UK, “yet our research shows that the number of people affected is in fact far higher.” The closer we look at the problem of mental health, the larger it appears.

But there is good news too. It seems that the taboo around talking about mental health is loosening its grip: 82 per cent of those surveyed said they were more willing to speak openly about mental health issues now than they were just a few years ago. Thanks to a variety of campaigns, and the efforts of many individuals, people are increasingly ready to talk about their mental health.

  Kind of. You see, the survey reports some hesitations. Of those who had faced a personal mental health crisis, the majority (61 per cent) had not spoken to anyone about their issue. So, the taboo around talking seems to be disappearing, but people are still struggling to open up.

As a culture, it seems, we’ve got much better at talking about how we ought to talk about mental health, but we’re still struggling to—well—talk about mental health. Put another way, most of us now know that it’s OK to talk, but we’re still not sure what to say. (Or, crucially, how to listen.)

Our friend Geoff McDonald, co-founder of Minds@Work, can help us here. And if you haven’t already, then do make sure to watch his TED Talk; Geoff speaks openly about his own mental health and thoughtfully about others’. In his talk, he proposes two concrete steps for improving mental health in the workplace. Firstly, he tells us, “we need influential people to tell their stories.” And, secondly, “we need leaders to invest in training everybody in mental health.”

At Box Media, we believe we can be a part of this next step. The stigma around mental health is being eradicated, and now we want to help people to know what to say; how to start those conversations; how to listen properly and speak kindly. We’re ready to talk, now it’s time to figure out what to say.

Alex Hill

Towards a Future, With Purpose

Towards a Future, With Purpose

Towards a Future, With Purpose

If the headlines and Twitter Feeds of the world are getting you down at the moment, I have the perfect cure: a trip to the website of our friends at Unreasonable Group. On this VC’s “Companies” page, they show all of the businesses they’re currently working with. You see, Unreasonable only work with entrepreneurs who are, as they put it, ‘bending history in the right direction.’ Put another way, they work with people who are passionate about solving the world’s BFPs.

           They work with folks like Jayaashree Industries, who have created the first low-cost machines to make sanitary pads in India; Embrace Innovations, whose infant warmers are estimated to have saved the lives of over 300,000 babies across 22 countries; and Econic Technologies, whose catalyst technologies convert CO2 into materials for plastic production. Unreasonable’s chief enemies are ill-health, climate change and inequality and they have assembled an exciting group of ventures to work with them.

           In the last ten years, Unreasonable—and other organisations like them—realised something that the rest of the business world today is only just waking up to: business does not (and cannot) exist apart from the world’s social problems. Business has both an opportunity and a duty to engage with problems like climate change and gender inequality in order to produce serious, social impact.

           If businesses don’t engage with social impact they’ll find themselves in danger of being left behind by their customers. Many customers today, particularly Millenials, look to businesses that take on social responsibilities. (If you don’t like statistics then look away now.) Deloitte’s Millenial Survey 2018 found that 40% of Millenials believe that the goal of business should be to ‘improve society’. Similarly, a 2015 Nielsen poll found that consumers are increasingly seeking out products that are clean and responsible: 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, and a full 73% of Millenials are.

    At Box Media, our drive is reskilling for purpose. We have set our sights on a future of human collaboration with machines (rather than a future of mass unemployment). We have an opportunity to work towards a future that is built on solving some of our greatest problems. In order to reach that preferred future, we know that our workforce will need to adapt and develop many new skills. And this sense of purpose motivates us; it gets us out of bed and into the office every day. What is the social impact of your business? If you can’t come up with an answer, it might be time for a rethink.

Alex Hill