Ever wanted to travel to an exotic island for a week but didn’t have the cash? Well, thanks to MissTravel, that’s not a problem anymore — if, and it’s a big if, you’re a young, attractive woman who’s willing to swipe right on a lonely, wealthy travel companion.
MissTravel initially launched as a dating site two and a half years ago, the first in the “travel dating space,” according to founder Brandon Wade, the relationship guru behind sugar daddy search sites SeekingArrangement.com and WhatsYourPrice.com.
“Most dating websites have been focused on people dating locally, but one of the things we noticed, especially catering to the successful and wealthy category, is that people are willing to fly and travel to meet each other,” says Wade. “It’s a whole lot easier for people to fall in love or be romantic on a trip, usually in an exotic place.”
Travel dating isn’t an entirely novel concept in the tech world. Tinder launched a “Passport” feature earlier this year to help users plan their travel hook-ups in advance. Last year, Y Combinator alum The Dating Ring crowdfunded a plan to fly New York women to San Francisco to date the city’s growing population of tech nerds.
MissTravel, which just launched its mobile app last week, is taking the concept a step further. Users can post trips to the app, and choose from three options: “I Have an Extra Ticket,” “Take Me Along,” or “I Have My Own Ticket.”
Or they can search for users instead, with the option to filter by age range, income level, height, body type, hair color, and more. “All of the profile fields are searchable,” Wade confirms.
So theoretically, if I wanted to go to Thailand for a week, I could create my dream vacation, post the details to the site with the “Take Me Along” tag, and wait for an eligible suitor to sweep me off my feet and finance the entire trip. (Let’s be real though: I’m never going to do that.)
This brings to mind quite a few problematic scenarios right off the bat. Aside from sounding a little too much like tech-enabled prostitution, what if my MissTravel bachelor is not who he says he is?
One of the key issues that MissTravel will have to combat is that its concept is based on a highly disparate power dynamic. If a woman is seeking a ‘sugar daddy’ (which has its own set of connotations) in her own city, she has a support network and options. In the travel scenario, this becomes more problematic. The questions are obvious. Would I have my own room? If I was uncomfortable at any point, would I be able to go home early?
You could argue that this is true for any dating app or service. But mix sexual politics and an imbalance of (monetary, and therefore situational) power with the logistics of travel, and there is potential here for some incredibly awkward scenarios—or even sexual assault.
According to Wade, MissTravel provides an optional stamp of verification to users who choose to pay for a background check, although anyone can create a profile without it. So essentially, the app doesn’t assume any responsibility for the outcome of users’ travel dates.
“You should practice caution when you date online,” he says. “We give people advice, like make sure you have a round trip ticket, make sure you have a room of your own, make sure you set expectations up front.”
Wade admits that MissTravel dates have resulted in a few “situations where members have been stranded because of certain circumstances,” but he assures that the company did everything it could to help those unfortunate women get tickets home.
With more than 615,000 members worldwide, and over half a million trips booked with MissTravel, the company is profitable, Wade reports.
To be clear, the pairings don’t have to be rich men and younger women. Men, who make up 30 percent of MissTravel users, pay a $40 monthly fee to use the site, and women can register for free. The company declined to disclose what percentage of users offering paid trips are men, or the percentage of first-date trips that result in second dates or relationships.
I asked Wade whether he sees anything inherently distasteful about the core idea.
“I love to travel, but a lot of people around the world don’t have the opportunity to do so,” he responded. “The app really does help to bridge economic lines and really give people the chance to travel to places they’ve never been.”
…if you’re hot.