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Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 4:01 pm | Rain Fog/Mist 53º


Seeker Startup Instantly Books Self-Guided Santa Barbara Wine Tours

Westmont College graduate launches new web-based platform to give visitors, locals experiences

Locals enjoy wine at Corks n’ Crowns Tasting Room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone while cashing in on wine-tasting deals with Seeker, a new web-based app that allows users to purchase a wine tour on the spot. Click to view larger
Locals enjoy wine at Corks n’ Crowns Tasting Room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone while cashing in on wine-tasting deals with Seeker, a new web-based app that allows users to purchase a wine tour on the spot. (Seeker photo)

One click remains between those who want to book a wine tour in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone and the experience they could tell all their friends about.

That’s the idea, at least, according to a new local startup called Seeker, a technology company that has just launched the first in a series of self-guided mobile device-based tours.

After that one click, visitors can start the tour whenever they want, take as much time as they need or veer from the path as they see fit.

No worries — the deals in Seeker’s first wine tour are good up to a year after purchase, since founder Ryan Judy doesn’t really expect you to visit 12 wineries in one day.

The $49 tour (valued at more than $200) is designed for one person to share with friends, including a complimentary bottle of Deep Sea Red Blend or Chardonnay at Deep Sea Winery on Stearns Wharf, a free glass of wine at Santa Barbara Winery, five other free glasses, seven two-for-one tastings, deals on merchandise and more.

“People are really interested in experiences,” said Judy, a 2008 Westmont College graduate. “And businesses want repeat business.”

As more and more of the tourism industry focuses on experiences — millennials tend to prefer activities over more stationary high-end travel — Judy developed an idea that would work for both his business and local vendors seeking customers.

Business owners pushed back when he suggested launching another website offering deals similar to Groupon.

They wanted to offer more glasses or bottles instead of tastings, providing locals and tourists with a rough road map of where to discover libations and redeem offers with a click from Seeker’s website, which functions as an app.

“Those people are also buying other stuff,” Judy said of the dozens of customers who have already purchased Seeker’s wine package. “We love tours. We’ve done them ourselves even as locals. The platform and relationships drive this.”

Seeker aims to replace the more traditional tours in town. Its web app is never overbooked, and you don’t have to talk with anyone on the phone to confirm your arrival.

“We saw right away that the Seeker self-guided wine tour is a unique concept for Santa Barbara,” Deep Sea Winery owner Tom Conway said. “It allows tourists to become familiarized with wines in the area, at their own pace. For locals who might already be familiar, it’s simply just a really good deal.

“We’re excited to partner with a startup that is building innovative technology that appeals to the younger generation of wine enthusiasts.”

And wine is just the beginning.

Seeker, which operates out of a small office inside the Tech Haus incubator at 631 Chapala St., hopes to add craft breweries and other activities via new tours in the next few months.

Judy wants to make the experience more interactive, possibly adding a scavenger hunt-like option to do an activity before unlocking a glass of wine.

Seeker tours also could be translated into different languages for a growing number of international tourists coming to Santa Barbara, and Judy sees potential to take the platform into San Luis Obispo, Southern California and beyond.

“It’s kind of like the sky is the limit,” he said. “It’s a new experience for locals. It’s not only a great deal, it’s fun.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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