MissTravel.com, Where Beautiful People Travel Free
By Mark Johanson | April 25, 2012 4:50 AM EST
"Who needs money, beautiful people travel free!" That's the marketing premise of Brandon Wade's newest dating site MissTravel.com.
Miss Travel, which had its official launch on Tuesday, promises to match "generous" travelers who hate to travel alone with "attractive" travelers who'd love the opportunity to travel the world for free.
It's like hitching and dating at the same time -- a combination many say is a recipe for disaster.
Wade is no stranger to controversy. Miss Travel is his fourth venture in the niche dating game, following the success of "sugar daddy" matchmaking site SeekingArrangement.com and bidding site WhatsYourPrice.com. Both have sparked heated debates.
Miss Travel is, for the most part, a jaunty globetrotting spinoff of Wade's Seeking Arrangement site. It links rich men (and the occasional woman) with avaricious and "attractive" companions.
Wade, a graduate of MIT Sloan School of Management, was a self-described nerd. By the age of 17, he'd won the physics Olympiad in his native Singapore. At 21 he had his first kiss.
"I grew up in an environment where I was suffering from my shyness," he said. "My mother told me to focus on school and when I'm finally successful and have money to be generous, the girls will come. All of my dating websites were created with that in mind."
On Miss Travel, this means the "generous" member agrees to pay for the "attractive" member to go on a trip. Through a point system, the "attractive" members will receive frequent flyer miles that can be redeemed for airline tickets or hotel rooms, presumably for travel without a "generous" partner.
In speaking with several reality show producers on shows like "The Bachelor," Wade learned how much money they spend on creating romantic settings that will stimulate a passionate response from the characters. He wanted to emulate that with his new dating site.
"I have this notion that if people can travel to Paris together or see the sunset in the Caribbean, the chances that they will fall in love are much stronger. It's a great way for people to share experiences in a setting that is new to both of them."
Miss Travel quietly launched on April 9 and Wade claims it amassed 11,500 users in just two weeks. Ninety-nine percent of the "generous" members are men and, despite the website's name, about seven percent of those are looking for other men.
"Perhaps the idea of travel is a more positive allure than my previous websites," Wade said of Miss Travel's popularity. "The focus on 'sugar daddies' may have negative connotations to some, but when you think about traveling it has a snazziness to it."
Snazzy as it may be, not everyone is excited about the new site.
Lindy West of Jezebel questioned if it's a good idea for a girl to go off into the unknown with a stranger she met online.
"There's just such a giant window for dishonesty and coercion here," West writes. "You're not just on a date with this person -- this rich, powerful stranger -- you're on a boat, you're in a hotel room."
Others have called it a thinly disguised escort service, despite a prominent disclaimer.
Wade acknowledges that there are risks involved, but said there is a section on travel advice and safety tips that discourage users from doing things like traveling out of their city or country to meet someone they don't know well. This, however, would appear to make safely using the dating service next to impossible.
Though he enjoys the attention, Wade said he's troubled by the way his sites are often portrayed in the media.
"Critics are quick to make a judgment," he lamented. "The word 'attractive' tends to offend people and I don't know why. Attractiveness is certainly in the eye of the beholder."
He said woman in their 40s have done very well on his websites because they bring to the table "a whole new set of experiences."
For Wade, the main message is "generosity" goes a long way.
It's worked for him, but will it work for others?
What do you think about Miss Travel? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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