On a sunny Thursday afternoon in Helsinki, two persons who fit the above description are sitting in the capital’s new impressive library, Oodi. Travel journalists Paula Kultanen Ribas and Siru Valleala are staying grounded for now, keeping busy with Finnish startup Tripsteri that offers an original take on travel journalism with the Tripsteri App, launched last year.
It all started a few years ago, when a group of travel journalists for the Mondo travel book series decided to set up their own website.
“After they stopped publishing the printed books, we wanted to find another place to put out our material,” Valleala says. “And that’s when we founded the website in 2015,” Kultanen Ribas continues.
But once the website was up and running, questions started pouring in: ‘If my hotel is here, where should I go to eat?’ ‘How can I find maps?’.
“How can we answer everybody?” Kultanen Ribas pondered. “The answer is the application.”
Let’s get technical
The new startup decided to take part in the Uutisraivaaja media innovation contest organised by Helsingin Sanomat Foundation and ended up winning the contest along with Finnish startup Frameright.
The 125 000-euro prize was a very welcome boost for Tripsteri’s growth plans, and, what’s more, the competition served as a startup school for the young company.
“It was very intense,” Kultanen Ribas says. “And lots of great mentors,” Valleala points out.
The Tripsteri team came out of the competition with an easy-to-navigate application that offers travel tips from journalists with local knowledge of the destination, as well as maps, bookings and immersive technologies.
In testbed Helsinki, the app includes an augmented reality (AR) tour of restaurants and watering holes featured in Aki Kaurismäki’s films, and audio tours of both Moomin creator Tove Jansson’s Helsinki and haunted spots in the Finnish capital. There’s even a virtual tour of the city’s urban oasis Teurastamo, a repurposed former abattoir that is now a self-styled “melting pot of food and urban culture.”
“You don’t have to go personally to every place because you can go there virtually,” Kultanen Ribas says. “There’s not really anything similar out there at the moment,” adds Vallela.
Sustainability without sermons
At the heart of Tripsteri is a belief in sustainable travel and avoidance of big chains. That’s why the startup promotes travel that is healthy and profitable for small businesses and local artisans.
“We are the kind of travellers who want to really get to know the culture and the people, and where the local people go and what they eat and what they make there,” Kultanen Ribas says. “That’s the whole point.”
In 2018, the app was selected by UN-based World Summit Awards (WSA) as Finland’s most sustainable and best digital solution in the field of culture and tourism. The same year, Tripsteri also came second in Visit Finland’s digital innovation contest.
So far, the Tripsteri App covers four destinations in Finland, as well as Iceland, Singapore, Stockholm, Berlin and Prague, with new destinations coming soon. It is available in English, Finnish, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.
The team behind the app comprises four travel journalists and two programmers, while the pool of writers for the website has already grown to 30.
“Our crew is quite small but effective,” Valleala says with a laugh, “and we have all those journalists in about 30 destinations around the world.”
As Tripsteri’s office in Helsinki is currently under renovation, the team is using the app to navigate the city in search of desk space.
“We are using it all the time,” Valleala says. “It’s not only for tourists and travellers, it’s also for people living there.”
And so, if you find yourself exploring Helsinki with the Tripsteri App, you may well come across one of the Tripsters hard at work at one of the city’s many cafés. Or in Tokyo and Barcelona for that matter.
Good News from Finland and Visit Finland are both part of Business Finland.