Inside travel: A new website promises to pay travellers to review their favourite places

Ben Ross talks to its creator, internet entrepreneur Simon Nixon

What does do?

We're encouraging travel writers, travel enthusiasts, local experts, concierges, ski guides and celebrities to write 800-word travel guides on their favourite places, sharing all of their inside tips – like which are their favourite hotels and why, which rooms to stay in, what the price is, where to eat, and the best things to do. It's categorised for a particular holiday – romance, culture or whatever – and the focus has to be on the budget, whether it's no-frills or luxury. We've integrated links into the editorial copy, so if a hotel, restaurant or attraction is mentioned then we compare prices to find the best deal. Any revenue made from the guide will be split 50-50 with the writer.

The site is being described as the 'YouTube of travel', yet unlike the video-streaming site you're trying to make money from content. How will that work?

YouTube is looking to integrate a monetised version of their site; I think that we've actually achieved what they're trying to do. I've learnt these skills from [Nixon founded the price comparison site in 1999, floating it on the stock exchange in 2007. He stepped down as CEO in February, but is still vice-chairman of the company.] Don't get me wrong: we're not going into the price-comparison business, but we'll link to the best price-comparison sites and send users there.

What we're doing is inspiring people and giving them very relevant ideas for their specific circumstances. If you read a travel piece offline then you don't have the tools to book it immediately.

Are you interested in new travel writing, or is it the destinations themselves that interests you?

I want to attract the best quality writing globally. That's the absolute goal. Simonseeks transcends geography very easily. We could easily launch this in America – and we will do very soon – with thousands of guides written by British people and then encourage local American writers to publish their own guides, because people have different preferences and expectations.

How much could an Independent reader earn from having a review on your website?

We've only just launched so I can't say for certain how much a writer would earn from the website. But a booking generally will generate for us something in the region of 8-10 per cent of the total booking value, and then the writer would receive half of that. We've got over 300 professional travel journalists who have already written on our site. They've got belief in it as a concept, but also because I'm involved and I've got a history with moneysupermarket. This isn't just a hobby for me; my reputation is absolutely at stake here.

How do you vet submissions?

Anyone can upload a guide, with pictures. But rather than it going live immediately we put it through an editorial process, which is noted on our website. It's mainly vetting to check that it meets our editorial standards, because when someone reads a review on our site we want it to be of a certain quality. We publish information on how to write a guide, because if the quality and content of the writing isn't really, really good then people aren't going to go and book anything. It's also the responsibility of the writer to keep their review up to date. They're earning revenue from the guide, and if things go out of date people are going to give the review poorer results.

Won't your reviews be biased towards what's popular?

If your favourite place is the Himalayas and you write a passionate guide on the Himalayas, then it's going to be more of a niche interest. There aren't many hotels, so there's not much monetised value for that. We give people a list of all the places that are making a lot of money – like Paris and London – in our weekly email. But we also say that if people still want to write about other less-popular places then they will be published, because it's not all about money: people still want to do research on the Himalayas. It's the detail that counts. We need to know what the best room in the hotel is; why it's amazing; if the President always stays there. And you've got to include the prices. My view is that some of the top destinations, like Paris, are going to get a lot of traffic, so to get onto the first page of Simonseeks you're almost certainly going to have to include video. Photos just aren't enough; if you're going to book a romantic trip then you want to see it properly.

What's your advice for the budding Simonseeks reviewer?

We've published a section of top tips with examples of really good guides, good headings for your guide and how to break it up. What we're trying to do is to make average writers into really good writers. We're thinking about running seminars around the country, like eBay does for its Power Sellers.

Does this mark the demise of the traditional travel guide?

I don't think so. If you're going to go and tour Spain then I think you're still going to go and buy a copy of a travel guide because you want a hard copy – something you can read in bed at night. I think travel guides are going to decline as more and more info is available online, but there's always going to be a place for them. They have that sort of nitty-gritty detail that you probably wouldn't get in an 800-word guide.

For more information, go to

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears