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Lonely Planet Wenzani iPhone App Curates Reviews From Experts And Friends

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LONELY PLANET WENZANI
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By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - Planning a trip and looking for some recommendations? A new app aggregates information from guidebooks, local and international publications and friends to provide useful suggestions.

The iPhone app called Wenzani was developed by travel guide company Lonely Planet. It enables users to compare reviews on restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and other attractions.

"There might be a restaurant that is reviewed by SFGate, Time Out and Frommer's," said Jenny Fielding, the CEO of Wenzani, referring to the San Francisco Chronicle website and the listings and travel publications.

"We're wrapping that all together and saying that the ability to compare social opinions with expert reviews is what people want."

Reviews from publishers are provided alongside opinions from Lonely Planet, the makers of the app, as well as Time Out and Frommer's, companies that have traditionally been considered competitors in the travel guide space.

"We think to really give the user a robust experience that's tailored to them that different publishers will resonate at different times," she explained.

Relying on a Twitter-like model, the users chooses which publishers and people they are interested in, and are then able to see their reviews of venues. They can also add their own opinions.

Wenzani's algorithm displays venues within the app that are most contextually relevant to the user, taking into account their location to find venues near them. It is designed to serve as a companion to the travel guide rather than a replacement.

"The idea is that you're really looking for points of interest and short bits of information as opposed to deep texts on history and some of the other stuff that those guidebooks do," she said.

The app also provides additional information such as the venue's address, website, phone number and in some cases entrance fees, or hours of operation. Venues can also be explored visually on a map.

The app is still in beta so there are some limitations such as in the ability to search for publications and people to follow. Fielding said the company is gathering feedback to identify and correct the issues.

The app is free but the company plans to introduce paid premium content and services with its next update. The services will allow users to book restaurants, hotels and event tickets directly through the app.

"We built in the hooks to monetize every piece of content -- if it's a restaurant being able to book a table, if it's a hotel being able to book a room," she said.

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