App offers Winnow into Bermuda’s soul

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  • William West and Allison Swan (Photograph supplied)

    William West and Allison Swan (Photograph supplied)

  • Five Senses Wild Edible Herbal Tour with Doreen Williams-James (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

    Five Senses Wild Edible Herbal Tour with Doreen Williams-James (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

  • Guided on water nature tour (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

    Guided on water nature tour (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

  • Sunset at a Private Beach House (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

    Sunset at a Private Beach House (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

  • Guided Railway Trail Run (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

    Guided Railway Trail Run (Photography by Melanie Fiander of Fiander Foto)

Travel magazines are out of date as soon as they’re printed and online forums get muddied by opinion, but a new tourism app promises to keep Bermuda’s information current.

Winnow went live last week. William West and Allison Swan built the platform to give visitors a chance to see the island from a local perspective.

On offer is anything from foraging in St David’s to fishing charters to free-diving. There are also tours of St George’s, paddleboarding through the mangroves and outdoor training sessions.

“I had not lived here in a long time and was having a renewed love affair with Bermuda,” said Ms Swan, who moved back here with her family in 2015 after living in Los Angeles for 20 years.

“This place is fabulous and beautiful and amazing, but our Bermuda; not every tourist gets to see that Bermuda. There’s such a disconnect if you’re a house guest or if you’re stepping off a plane and don’t know anybody.

“How can we close that gap so that everybody would have the opportunity to have a host in their pocket?”

That ethos was embraced by Mr West, who moved to London 14 years ago.

“We want to break away from this idea of the all-inclusive or the pre-packaged holiday. I think people are less planned than they were before,” he said.

“How do we connect people to really interesting experiences? How do we streamline the booking process? How do we cut through all the noise?”

Above all else, they wanted to make it easy.

With an overload of opinion on online forums, it is difficult to know which voice to trust.

“You don’t have to call around to various places to get what you want. Within three clicks of your finger, you can choose and book and pay for something,” said Ms Swan, a former filmmaker who recently got a degree in real estate finance.

Both had experienced their own share of travel woes.

“I was going to Miami for a friend’s bachelorette and I wanted to book a sunset cruise. After spending an hour and a half on Trip Advisor I gave up,” Ms Swan said.

Mr West, a strategic marketing consultant, added: “Equally, I had been on holiday with a bunch of friends in Seville. No one had planned anything. It ruined our trip not having something like this.”

He believes the tool will be great for travellers looking for “insider access”.

“There’s a sort of democracy,” he said. “You don’t need to know us, the app is free. Providers don’t have any barrier to entry.

“All you have to do is pay for the experience and show up on the day.

“You don’t have to build a profile. As a user, you download it and use it right away. And because it’s digital, it can ebb and flow with the season.

“Once you print something, it’s out of date. We’re able to make sure that it’s extremely timely. If it’s raining we can release a rainy-day collection and all the things that you should do when it rains show up.

“Over Cup Match we had editorial that was about Cup Match. The day that Cup Match was done, it came down.”

Although technology is at the centre of their work, tourism is what drives the company.

“We think of ourselves as a tech-enabled company rather than a tech company,” said Mr West.

“A lot of travel technology out there aggregates information that’s already existing and scrapes it off the internet. There’s stuff that an algorithm will never know, that an aggregator will never be able to find — sunset dinner at a private home, meditation in a cave.

“It’s really about the more interesting, varied and uncommon things you wouldn’t get if you just searched the internet.”

Winnow lists around 70 providers and 100 experiences, starting at $50.

Mr West said the app is as much about the people involved as it is about the experience they provide.

“Bermuda doesn’t have just one type of visitor. We have a lot of different visitors and we want to make sure that a lot of different perspectives are shown,” he said.

The pair have received “incredible” support from the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Bermuda Business Development Agency and local hotels looking to put their experiences on the app.

“It’s also a great tool for locals,” Mr West said. “When you have people come to the island, you want to show them a good time. This alleviates your need to plan things for people.

“We both have houseguests, so I’ve spent the morning booking holidays for everyone.”

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Published Aug 16, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 16, 2017 at 9:39 am)

App offers Winnow into Bermuda’s soul

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