Lonely Planet unveils Wenzani, a local travel app curated by friends and experts

Lonely Planet unveils Wenzani, a local travel app curated by friends and experts

Wenzani is the latest location-based social app to hit the mobile market, and this time the travel gurus at Lonely Planet are at the helm of what they say is a “personalized guide like none other.”

Lonely Planet’s tech startup off-shoot, Fourforty Inc, was set up a few months back with a view towards developing mobile travel guides with a social twist, and Wenzani is the first product to leave its conveyor belt, launching today in public beta for iOS devices.

Jenny Fielding is Fourfourty’s CEO, and she previously worked for BBC Worldwide – Lonely Planet’s parent company. In a blog post earlier today, she noted that Wenzani won’t be focusing purely on promoting Lonely Planet or BBC Travel content, and it will be drawing on information from a broad range of sources. “Wenzani is the first app of its kind that allows user to tap into leading content from multiple expert sources like Lonely Planet and Time Out, and combine it with socially-curated recommendations to create a personalized guide like none other”, she says. “It is ideal for locals who want to get to know their cities better and for travelers seeking authentic experiences everywhere they go.”

Lonely Planet has gone further than that though, and partnered up with a number of other rival travel guides – including Frommer’s Travel, Hearst and Eyewitness Guides – to try and be as comprehensive with its offering as possible

The premise behind Wenzani is that you may find yourself out somewhere and you’re not sure exactly where to eat out, where to shop or what to do for entertainment – this could be in your own city, or whilst on holiday. The app can be searched by category, with GPS used to narrow down the results to your locale:

The app combines recommendations from trusted experts in the field of travel, and users can customize the app by choosing who they want to ‘follow.’ Wenzani taps into ‘local experts’, such as Lonely Planet’s London-based writer Tom Hall, and blogger Louise Heal.

Whilst the app is currently still in beta, we’re told that plans are in place to build Wenzani so that it will filter by additional factors such as weather, time of day, and whether the user is a local or new to the area. So basically, if it’s raining, it won’t recommend that you go watch the beach volleyball world championships.

In addition to the curated expert recommendations, there’s also a social media feature that enables users to connect with their friends and other travelers to share personal experiences and recommendations. Users can browse friends’ recommendations, create their own listings to add into the guide, or ask the community a very specific question. You can browse Wenzani without logging in, but you’ll have to connect through Facebook or Twitter to follow specific people and add your own recommendations. Wenzani has also developed a Facebook Web app that allow users to integrate recommendations from Facebook into the guide.

As part of the public beta, 100,000 downloads will be available, and further updates are planned for the app in 2012.

You can download Wenzani for free now, which is optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch, but will be available on other platforms shortly. Oh, and if you’re wondering what the name is all about, Wenzani apparently is a Zulu greeting that means “what are you doing?”.

Here’s the official Wenzani promo video:

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