Location Game Apps – New in Social Media

End of last year, Foursquare started out with its location-based game iPhone app, whereby people check into venues around town and are being rewarded with points and badges. The application scans your current location and shows you a list of venues to choose from. If the venue you are at isn’t listed, you simply add it and tag with relevant keywords, thereby creating user-generated content which earns you 5 points. You can also add tips, for example how much you liked the pasta dish at that Italian restaurant you’ve just had dinner at with your friend. Or you save some To-Dos for later when you come back. Once you are a regular at a venue, you have the chance to become their Mayor. Checking in, you decide whether you want to notify your Foursquare friends or publish the check-in on Facebook or Twitter.

Foursquare iPhone appFoursquare Blackberry app

It’s all good fun and quite popular in the U.S. Some tourist boards have already teamed up with Foursquare in order to promote their destination (see our post about: Chicago Tourist Board and Foursquare).
Recently, several new game apps have been launched using a similar concept, e.g.: Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt, Whrrl, iWassuu
There are two questions I’d like to ask:
1. What are the privacy issues with apps like this, when essentially using them your entire life becomes public? Will this concept survive once it has been abused, for example by an ex-boyfriend or boss following your every move…
2. How could these games develop commercially, especially in terms of tourism and travel?
Question 1 I would like to open up to the public and would love to hear your comments, though my feeling is that we’ve already pushed out the boat a fair bit in terms of privacy with web 2.0 and boundaries are shifting.
Question 2 I’d answer with Advertising!
Like Facebook and other social media sites and even going back to the old days of ‘simple’ search, location-based applications collect valuable data about peoples’ habits and social interaction. This in turn will enable advertisers to target their promotions more precisely than ever. That’s what we call behavioral targeting in online marketing.
Imagine a business traveler visiting London and looking for a hotel for the night. We know from his extensive use of location-based games what kind of places he likes, say up-market, design hotels and posh gourmet restaurants. No need for a budget hotel to spend advertising dollars on him…
So, while it’s all a game right now, there is huge potential for businesses to use such applications commercially in future.
That is, if they survive… What do you think?

iPhone App Review: Peninsula Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels

Ok, I admit it. I’m addicted to my iPhone. I would definitely book a hotel room on my mobile but then I’m what we call an ‘early adopter’ in the marketing world.

How about you?
Vote in the poll on the right!
I’ve just downloaded two hotel apps last week.
Two rather different companies in the luxury hotel segment:
1. Peninsula Hotels – a small but prestigious hotel chain
2. Small Luxury Hotels – a Hotel Marketing Association with over 500 member hotels world-wide
I’ve worked with both companies before and so I’m taking a special interest in what they are doing in terms of online and mobile marketing.
Their iPhone apps follow very different approaches.
While Peninsula goes straight for the booking procedure, SLH present the hotels with a short description, location map and image. This makes sense since Peninsula regulars will know their hotels. However, a tiny bit of information about each Peninsula property would be nice.
The SLH app is divided into three sections: Discover, Enjoy, Share.
Discover is all about finding the right hotel in your desired destination.
Enjoy features a brief destination guide once you have arrived at the hotel.
Share let’s you manage and share your favorites, by email, on Facebook, on Twitter.
What I like most about the SLH application is the various ways to choose a hotel:
  • by Hotel types such as city centre, beach resort, country house etc.
  • by Destinations (pretty map guys!)
  • by Special offers, whereby this button let’s you navigate through various categories such as Adventures, Spa Breaks or Honeymoon and Romance to your desired destination
The Hotels near me feature is great, too – it finds you hotels close to your current destination which can be displayed either on a list or pinpointed on a map. Ok, some of the hotels the application found are actually quite far away. SLH got to work a bit on the parameters there.
Something completely lacking from the Peninsula iPhone app is a destination guide.
SLH’s Enjoy section mainly let’s you search for landmarks nearby, then sends you off to the iPhone map and shows you how to get there. This section has more potential. SLH should check out the Langham Hotels iPhone app to get some ideas.
Something completely missing from the SLH iPhone app is an online booking form.
There is only a Call to Book button which links you to your local SLH call centre.
All in all, I really like the SLH iPhone application – one of the best I’ve seen so far. Stylish, easy to navigate, with all the necessary information but an online booking form should be added.
The Peninsula app looks stylish, too but needs more content in my view: some info about each hotel, perhaps a destination guide but mainly a section that sells add-ons at the hotel once guests have checked in. It seems to me Peninsula are missing an opportunity here.
I’m curious about the next releases of both applications.
Download from iTunes:

ITB Berlin Round-up

The weather has been fairly nice during ITB this year.

Unusual! It only started snowing again when the world’s largest travel trade fair closed its doors on Sunday afternoon.

The figures:
  • 179,351 visitors in total
  • 110,953 trade visitors
  • 68,398 visitors of the general public
  • 6 bn Euros in orders
  • 11,127 companies exhibited (2009: 11,098)
  • from 187 countries
  • 12,500 delegates taking part in the ITB Convention
  • approx. 7,200 journalists from around the world covered the show
The online and technology trends:

Social Media

Social Media was the most obvious trend at ITB Berlin this year.
People either love or hate it, but it’s in everybody’s mouth.
My favorite concept:
word of mouth becomes word of mouse

My favorite thought:
Google Live Search, Google Buzz – search is slowing down social media and enables the customer to find deals when they need them. @yenlee
The main questions asked:
How to generate tangible revenue using social media?
How to monitor and control reputation in social media and fight fires?
The main issue to be resolved in 2010:
How to track bookings generated through social media campaigns to the bottom line?
A couple of (technical) solutions:
  • Facebook Connect to transfer customer data
  • Facebook integration of booking interfaces
The largest events, featuring social media panel discussion, lectures, networking events etc. were:

iPhone apps

iPhone apps were displayed on almost every booth – at least that was my impression.
Everyone, from hotel and travel to technology company seems to have launched an iPhone or mobile app just in time for ITB. Some of them but not all were clearly rushed and need to be worked on in terms of usability.
Only a few examples:

Last but not least iPhone apps especially launched to get around ITB:

Is this the year of mobile as predicted at World Travel Market last November?

In which case an appeal to travel fair organizers around the world:
We need iPhone charge stations at the grounds to power up our mobiles after a long day of using all those apps and tweeting! How else would we be able to book our hotel room for the night?
It’s been a great show and I wish there was another one next week.
Thanks to everyone I’ve met for all the exciting discussions.
Keep in touch!

The Hotel and Travel Week #15

Monday, 1st March

Yotel, the futuristic hotel chain, will open a hotel in New York City in 2011. This will be the brand’s first hotel outside it’s current airport locations, London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol. The hotel will be an affordable and distinct luxury property in Manhattan, Yotel say the hotel will feature 669 stylish cabins as well as a restaurant, bar, meeting rooms, Club Lounge and the largest outside terrace of any hotel in New York. It will be the first and only Yotel full-service hotel.
Tuesday, 2nd March
IHG, the world’s largest by rooms hotel chain, is targeting candidates to fill job vacancies with Twitter-based job postings and mobile recruiting. They are working with TweetMyJOBS, a Twitter-based recruiting solution that connects job seekers with recruiters and companies instantly via social media. Job seekers can search TweetMyJOBS.com by type of work, location or company and receive instant notification on their mobile when a job matches their criteria. TweetMyJOBS say they have reached more than 18k highly-targeted applicants for the 1k open positions at IHG in January alone.
Wednesday, 3rd March
Revinate announce a new Online Reputation Management solution, specifically designed for individual hotels and hotel chains. The tool provides comprehensive monitoring of top review sites, blogs, news sites and social media services such as Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor.
There is a Reputation Dashboard with an analysis of reviews from sites such as Yelp, Priceline, Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity, a section called Social Media Scorecard which tracks key performance metrics and benchmarks of competitors and a TweetConcierge with hotel-specific features like multi-user management and campaign tracking.
Revinate clients include InterContinental, Peninsula Hotels, Joie de Vivre Hotels and Trump Hotels.
Thursday, 4th March
Priceline.com launch the Big Deal Hotel Price Guarantee promotion. If a customer finds a better price until the day before check-in than the price they’ve booked a room for under Priceline’s Name Your Own Price® scheme, the company will match that price and pay the customer an additional USD25. Customers in the U.S. will also receive a USD50 coupon which they can use for future bookings on the site.
Friday, 5th March
ebookers.com waive hotel cancellation and amendment fees. Customers amending their booking will now only have to pay a fee if the hotel has their own cancellation policy. The OTA has also removed all booking fees throughout the entire hotel portfolio.