Yesterday I had a day off between two holidays. I was going to go for a Fly Your Own Scenic Flight in a Cessna 162 at Ardmore, but the weather looked a bit dodgy and my car got trailered to an auto electrician in Pt Chevalier at lunchtime on Friday who said he was going to check the diagnostics and let me know why the engine lights kept coming up. Ardmore is an hour from here so a long drive with a high risk of rain.
I rang them 3 times after that and they said he was really busy and would call me back. I’ve been ringing ever since and I think he’s taken the long weekend off. It’s now Tuesday. We’ll come back to trustworthiness again later. This guy has been trustworthy before and was recommended by the man I bought my car off as an expert in Corvette’s. He didn’t let me down the other time I went to him. I suspect he is the sort of person that takes on more than he can handle and that frustrates his manager who in the end wouldn’t let me speak to him. So I’m not sure how I’m getting to work tomorrow or when I will see my car next. I think the thing about trustworthiness is it must be pervasive and consistent. It wasn’t.
Anyway, the weather improved a bit and I borrowed a car off my daughter and went into town to visit my friend and your Giapo for a chat.
I parked at Sky City, because it was free courtesy of a couple of poker matches and walked down Queen Street, where in almost every doorway sat someone with a hat out, not making eye contact, mostly no note and a vacant drug stare in their eyes, not the “I can feel it coming in the night” rush I saw on Louis Theroux’s Dark State – Heroin Town on TV recently, this was more like everyone was isolated in the same bad trip.
I had about $18 in coins in my pocket, planning to give some to buskers if they were making an effort, given that I had done some busking in my teens and I respect people who are prepared to make some sort of a trade for value.
Then I walked past this white guy, (his term) in a tidy shirt, clear drugless blue eyes and a hat in front of him with a lonely silver coin looking up at me from it. I turned around and walked back. I asked him if we could chat and if I could ask him a few questions. He looked me straight in the eye, blue eyes to blue eyes and said “Sure, I’m not going anywhere. What do you want to ask me?”
I said “I don’t want to offend you, but how did it come to this?”
He told me that a couple of years earlier he had been working as a labourer, had an accident which left him unconscious in hospital with severe injuries, to the point that he could no longer work when he got out after a couple of months. He couldn’t earn money (still can’t because of tremors and the scars looked pretty real where his hand appeared to have been pulverised). He and his wife lost their State House and then he lost his wife and kids.
With nowhere to go he now lives in a street doorway in downtown Auckland, except when he can find the $10 to get into an Internet Cafe where they don’t mind if you sleep in the night.
I asked what he could do and he said he didn’t know. His body didn’t give him much of a chance to get work and therefore a room and the only work he had been offered was with the gangs and he said “You know where that would end up. Back in jail and I aint ever going back there.” I didn’t ask what he had been inside for but he said it was about 24 years ago. He told me how he had survived by studying on behalf of inmates who were trying to get qualifications and explained how they would arrange it so that at exam time, the guards would let him go in and sit the tests on behalf of inmates that would have failed. He was very bright. He helped them and got to use his mind and they left him alone and safe.
It was clear that he couldn’t do physical labour, but he is 51 by his reckoning and the only way off the street is to work. Without a street address, he couldn’t get a benefit or his first hand on the rung to get out. He told me a lot of stories and he did have a good head on him so I asked if he had done any public speaking. He said he had been a member of Toastmasters while he was in jail. He found public speaking pretty easy and I thought of people I know who tread the circuit and thought he could probably hold an audience with his experiences. I said to him that the chances I could help him were pretty close to zero and not to get his hopes up, but I would ask some questions and I shall.
I dropped the change I was planning on giving to buskers into his hat and with a big grin he said “I’ll be staying in the Internet Cafe tonight.” He went on to say that he had to stash the money because if street kids saw any money in the hat they would run past and snatch it. He said he had been through 7 hats already that they had stolen.
I shook his hand and went on to visit my friend Giapo in his awesome new gelato shop.
This was my first visit to the new store (I know it has been there a while) and there was one thing that never changes. There is always a queue of people waiting for their Giapo gelato experience.
If you haven’t been to his new store in Gore Street, Auckland City, you owe yourself a treat.
This is no ordinary store where they wet an aluminium scoop in a container of water and drag some ice cream into a cone from the cardboard tub of your preference.
You are purchasing a culinary experience the equal of what you would get from the kitchen of a master chef. You will be taken on a journey of testing and trying flavours, even while you are standing in the queue Eventually a unique visual and sensual experience will be delighting you and your friends, while you are looking at and consuming it, followed by the sensation that you are sated and satisfied and looking forward to recommending it, the experience, to your friends. This is no drive to Pokeno for an ice cream, this is theatre for the eyes and taste buds.
Giapo and I have wonderful conversations and it was also great to finally meet his amazing and beautiful wife in person. I loved that she gave me a firm handshake and looked me in the eye, I don’t like limp handshakes from anyone. I know these last years have been a big journey for her also. Behind every consummate dreamer is their best friend and partner and without her the stumbling blocks are that much higher. We deep thinkers need a leveler and someone to sometimes ask how and why and finally, “how can I help?”
Giapo is an economist, a mad scientist, a gastronome, a master chef, a 3D printer, a social media maven from way back, a purveyor of experience, an artist and a man who speaks with absolute passion and Italian gestures, from a big heart, who wants to leave a legacy of experiences bound by trustworthiness for himself and his business; and a secure income for staff who want to use his business as a stepping stone for his own career.
We have many experiences in common, including both being deep thinkers and the visit left me with lots of thoughts and questions about what a trustworthy business looks like. The simple answer is that he was going to take many years to build it and would find out as it developed. But I can say that trustworthiness for Giapo includes:
- Consistently delivering a quality experience that is like going to theatre for the eyes and taste buds. I have never seen anyone leave disappointed;
- Passion for delivering something of quality including his relationships with staff and the products.
- Passion for his staff and helping them make what they will from the work experience and wishing he could do more with and for them.
- Helping his staff develop ideas, for example he runs Chef’s Table gelato degustation evenings and VIP evenings (they were set up for one when I was there) which includes matching music to the course, something one of his students is studying.
- Having a genuine passion and compassion for his customers (and friends) that never wavers, Giapo is who and what he is, not someone living a persona.
- Making sure that he looks after himself, his health and fitness so that he can be well in order to run his business to deliver the trustworthiness he aspires to.
- Recognising the importance of family, that includes those of his customers (friends like me and my family) and of course his own, those here and those back home in Italy.
There is something I deeply admire in people like Giapo. There is a sincerity and depth of purpose that he strives for every day, rain or shine, winter (not the best time for gelato) or summer, year on year.
It is a desire to be the best and continue to push the boundaries of what that means, each and every day and he has now done that for years past the use by date at which 80% of businesses go broke. He has proven that it is sustainable.
I’m not saying it has been easy. It’s tough when you are creating a unique business with a unique set of values and direction. Where ultimately you want your business to conform to a set of ideals. Where, if you consistently over-deliver on your promise of a wonderful experience and people trust you that if they tell their friends how great it was, they will confidently wish that same experience for their friends.
Like fractals, (something Giapo used to tell me about years ago, that branch out like pretty ice crystal flowers) customers all over the world would say “If you go to Auckland, New Zealand, you really have to go to Giapo in Gore Street. It will be a highlight of your trip.”
Anyway, enough of that, it’s a beautiful day, go and visit Giapo and let him know I sent you.
On the way back to Sky City to pick up the car I borrowed, I walked past a noisy bar with an American flag outside. It sounded like there was a show on, so I walked a bit closer to see what was happening. Yep, you got it, Super Bowl 2018. I’m not sure whether the audience was that worried about whether the Eagles one. Heck, I’ve only ever changed planes at the airport there on my way to or from Ithaca NY, but we love our sport in Auckland and despite the showers, it was a great day for sitting in a bar watching sport on TV.
Off I went home to do my thing, working on recording my second track for The Cancer Diaries, my charity music EP and Music Videos for cancer patients and their supporters, a bit of writing on the two books I am working on and pondering with my wife on the nature of trustworthiness as a pillar foundation for a business.
I have 2 questions for you:
What does trustworthiness mean to you in business? ; and
Have you been to Giapo yet. Looks like a great day for it today.
I’ve been engaged in a conversation in a mobile marketing group LinkedIn discussion where people involved in solutions such as mobile coupons are complaining that retailers are intellectually lazy and not looking to embrace new technology.
I argued that most retailers focus on BAU (Business As Usual), working in their business employing strategies and technologies they have used for years, which they understand and can deal with. They do not spend anywhere near enough time working on their business, including strategies to embrace new technologies.
Many retailers have been hurt by one-day deal companies, where they gave up 50% and more in GP in the hope that if they gave great service, they would win new loyal customers. Of course we now know that didn’t work and the only ones that made big money out of it were one-day deal companies. They didn’t have to invest in inventory or carry any risk to speak of.
I’ve presented at a number of conferences on the topic of mobile and location based marketing. What I found really sad was that of all the delegates, the number of retailers at these events could generally be counted on the fingers of one hand.
I’ve been looking at how I could help retailers, particularly in New Zealand and Australia with solutions available today in a cost effective way. I think I have come up with a solution, but its going to take me a fair amount of time and money to deliver.
I will start in the area of Travel and Tourism, largely because they are more focussed on customers who are actively looking for services and new experiences and the industry is used to investing to win new business. Their market is also tough and the traditional business services continue to largely support those who own the systems, ie reservation engines, directories, commissions to tour operators, rather than retailers themselves. These businesses are easier for me to access and easier to quantify direct ROI. Also the individual transactions often have a higher dollar value, so if I can demonstrably increase their cashflow and profit and share in the gain, I can recover my costs more quickly.
I was thinking about how hard it is to get retailers out of the shop to talk to them and from years of calling on owner operator retailers in the past, trying to talk to them in their own environment with customers in store, that’s all but impossible.
So I’m thinking retail readers, if there are any here, and would welcome your feedback on the best way to get in front of you and your peers. The problem is that most of them will never read this. The majority do not attend retail conferences, they don’t even participate in their own main-street organisations. They don’t even do something as simple as co-promote their neighbours. I remember years ago hearing Mark Blumsky (past retailer and Wellington Mayor) talk at the New Zealand Retailers Association conference about how he collaborated with his neighbours by giving away free coffee coupons at the next door cafe to people who bought shoes from him and the cafe gave discount coupons for shoes to their patrons. Leading retailers (because they were at the conference) all talked about it during the lunch and coffee breaks, but I don’t know if a single one of them ever emulated the exercise.
We have amazing free services such as Foursquare and people have probably used one of these apps to check into your store. They may even be your Foursquare Mayor, but you probably don’t even know what Foursquare is.
You need to embrace mobile technology and I want to help. But you’re probably not reading this, so you will have to wait until I have helped some other people first. If you are reading this, leave a comment, connect with me and others who want to see Australasian retailers thrive and grow in this exciting new world. Learn at your own pace, but please step outside of BAU and do something. One little step a day is 365 steps a year and that’s quite a lot.
I’ve been writing a series of blogs about my recent road trip in the USA and the applications that helped and didn’t help me along the way. The last couple of blogs were about TripAdvisor which was a big help when it came to accommodation, but not great for much else.
I’ve been a big fan of Foursquare for a long time. You’ll find it mentioned in many of my blogs. One of the common threads is that people all over the world are ‘checking-in’ using the GPS on their mobile phones to all sorts of businesses, leaving tips and comments. There are recommendations of favourite food, or great service through to comments about lack of hygiene in the bathrooms.
The really frustrating thing is that the vast majority of businesses that get a mention on Foursquare have no idea what it is, or that they are involved. Foursquare is of course well-known by people in marketing roles, especially those involved in social media. Most of my friends in the information and communication technology industries use it. I’ve written a number of blogs trying to promote it to businesses in the hospitality and tourism industries because it is free and because tourists and travelers are using it. I suspect it mostly falls on deaf ears.
Many of the hotels I stayed at on my trip were on the outskirts of towns and somehow we managed to pretty much always arrive around 5-6PM tired and hungry. Where to find somewhere good to eat? Initially we went for walks or drives, but we really just wanted to relax. I quickly found that Foursquare was the best way to not only find out what was nearby, but also to find what places people recommend, or don’t.
You can search from a range of items based on proximity including Specials, Food, Coffee, Sights, Arts, Trending and more. You don’t just have the option of searching in proximity to where you are, but effectively you can pan the map for the bigger picture, or search by place-name for your next destination.
Using this we found some great restaurants and bars and also managed to confirm the location of an alligator hatchery in Louisiana that the navigation unit placed about a mile wrong in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty disconcerting when we were driving on the wrong side of the road (for us) of some very narrow country roads.
I do have to say that I only found a few specials using Foursquare, which reinforced my experience that hundreds of thousands of businesses are missing out on opportunities to pro-actively win more business.
I also kicked myself after spending 45 minutes waiting for a quesadilla at The Iron Kettle restaurant in Lynchburg, because if I had used Foursquare I would have read a comment left by a previous visitor saying: “Avoid. Slow service. You could walk to New York and get a three course meal in the time it takes for a simple burger here.” They were right too. To her credit, the waitress refused to charge us for our lunch, much to the disgust of the manageress.
That brings me to another very cool feature of Foursquare and that is the ‘History’ function. If you log on to your Foursquare account and select history, you will find a chronological record of every location you checked into including the time, date and any photos or comments you made at the time. I had originally planned to start a travel diary using My Vacation on my iPad. I have to say that lasted about 3 days. We were just so busy doing and planning that we just didn’t feel like keeping a diary. Turns out we didn’t need to. That alone is a great reason to use Foursquare next time you are going on a trip. Check in, take photos, make comments and you have your travel diary.
Pay it forward and leave tips, good and bad about the locations you check in to so that others can benefit from your experience and learn from mine as well, that even if it is right there in front of you and looks OK, check for tips and comments other people have left. As I’ve said in previous blogs about TripAdvisor, if one person leaves a bad comment, take it with a big grain of salt, but when there are several, where there’s smoke, there could well be fire.
I love Foursquare and feel it is perhaps seen by many, such as those who still mock twitter, saying “I don’t care if you had a coffee!” as a waste of time. I say that it is a wonderful marketing tool, a great site and app for exploring new places that you may not otherwise have found and definitely ranks as my favourite global Points of Interest database.
Give it a go, whether you are travelling on holiday or just looking to try a new place to eat, have a coffee or be entertained. If you find it useful, share your own tips and comments, pay it forward.
I also welcome comments on my blog. What do you like or not like about Foursquare. What have I missed? There is of course much more including game mechanics, leaving comments on other people’s check-ins, mayorships, badges, friends and lists and the ability to add new locations on the fly and share them with the rest of the world. There are also many 3rd party apps usng the Foursquare API’s. What are your favourite features?
I recently wrote a blog about TripAdvisor and how to make the most of it on your FIT (Free Independent Traveler) trip.
What can you learn as a developer or someone who wants to own their own app to win loyalty and business in the hospitality and tourist industry?
The first thing is content. Most applications are city focused. That’s understandable, but based on my experience in the Southern States was that there were loads of tourists looking for cool things to do and see, but they were so hard to find. If I hadn’t found the Blues Trail Guide at the Natchez Trace Information Centre, I would not have visited Crystal Springs because according to TripAdvisor there was nothing there but a single restaurant. In fact I had the most wonderful day there, meeting the Mayor at City Hall and spending a couple of hours with Theresa, the Granddaughter of legendary blues giant of Crossroads fame Robert Johnson at his museum.
Now you may not have heard of Robert Johnson, or watched the movie Crossroads, inspired by his legendary story, but if you are a blues fan, then this is a must do pilgrimage and to actually meet and talk with his granddaughter is something you won’t likely do at music museums or historic places of interest anywhere in the world. My point is that outside of the cities is where the real people live and the world is full of exciting and interesting places outside of Disney, Alcatraz or the Empire State Building.
While I make that criticism, I do have to say that TripAdvisor was by far the best for the apps I used on my trip. I was able to find the properties I wanted to stay in, I was able to filter things to do, types of accommodation and more, I guess the key thing was lack of information outside of cities.
As a future step, I’d like it to have the ability to learn about me, profile me based on my interests and make suggestions to me. Given the wealth of information they do have, this would not be too difficult.
When it comes to accomodation, maybe they could also help me with search functionality that would allow me to eliminate properties with keywords, for example ‘show me all properties in Xville excluding keywords ‘bed bugs’ and ‘bad internet’. I understand the problem for properties who may be unfairly targeted by competitors trying to put people off their properties, but that is a security issue and there are always opportunities for redress. The fact is, wherever I saw comments about bedbugs etc, I avoided those properties like the plague. So all it did was make it take longer for me to find those comments, but I still didn’t stay at those properties. What frustrated me the most was that I spent up to 2 hours some nights, instead of relaxing, trying to work out where we would go next and where we would stay, which took a bit of the gloss off an awesome trip.
I’d like an app, and I know people are building them, which allow you to list your interests and then it will generate a tour or recommendations to meet your interests. Issue for me is most of them are based around specific advertisers who are often self rated, or very generic interests. That doesn’t work for me, I want apps that have all places, business and non business.
Probably the biggest one for me is I want live events. This was the hardest thing of all and TripAdvisor didn’t support this. If you ask a tourist what some of the best things they did were, it was about real life events, fairs, the bath-tub river race, Civil War reenactments (there were plenty but other than driving past one by accident we wouldn’t have had a clue where to find them), concerts, shows, the rodeo in Hattiesburg MS which we only found out about because we were in a hotel restaurant having breakfast and met a family who were competing in it.
Tourism is hurting around the world. Lots of people are traveling their own countries rather than going overseas. Lots of treasures are being missed in towns that have a lot to offer and many of those businesses need our tourism dollars more than the big cities.
A footnote to state and regional tourism organisations, particularly USA, Australia and New Zealand. It is frustrating and short sighted in my humble opinion to stop your tourism efforts at the border. I loved the Tennessee tourism book, but it was too hard to use and it stopped at the border. I also understand that your tax dollars stop at the border, but tourists don’t. Same to Louisiana who obviously had their book made by the same publisher. If you are using the same company, then that company could perhaps look at making quality location based applications that make it easy and attractive for people to enjoy holidays and spend their money.
Perhaps the key is to ask the tourists what they want rather than just continue to focus on traditional print business as usual.
If I had only one application to use on my road trip it would be tripadvisor. Having said that it wasn’t enough on my road trip although I spent more time using this app than any other. I put a lot of planning into the trip before hand and contacted US State Tourism organisations asking for information. Only Tennessee came back to me with a booklet including useful maps of the whole state and things to do, places to see, which was great. I filled it with post it flags.
All tourist organisations have material like this book, but they don’t make it easy to access and they don’t appear to collaborate interstate. This is a major negative for a traveller on a road trip that regional tourist operators in New Zealand and Australia should also think about. I managed to get a similar book for Louisiana when I arrived in New Orleans, which looked like it was designed by the same company. I was lucky that the property we stayed in had one in the room. Otherwise you need to find an Information Centre, but of course these aere widely spread out and you need info to find one.
The biggest problem was that these books were segmented by town or county and not well linked to the main map. They were designed more for people who are looking at locating themselves in a town for a holiday and exploring from there. Also the maps for each state ended strictly on the state line, so if there was something worth enjoying on the other side, it wasn’t going to be on the map. This makes it really difficult to plan a multi state holiday. It would be far better for State and Regional Tourism Operators to work together to mutual benefit. I’m going to cross the line whether you make it easy for me or not.
So back to tripadvisor. If you install it on your mobile or iPad it will help you find Accommodation, Restaurants, Flights and Things To Do, sometimes. What I found was that they worked pretty well in cities, which was the same case with apps such as Foursquare and others, but when you go to rural USA, which was my plan for 3 weeks, the information tends to be more limited to accommodation and sparse when it comes to the many interesting attractions that people have put huge effort into but leave most people blissfuly unaware of them.
My main use for tripadvisor was accommodation and this was really interesting. When you travel through rural America there is a huge variety of accommodation options from very cheap to very expensive. The great thing about it is that it is full of reviews from people who have stayed at those properties. Reviews is something that scare the hell out of tourism industry publishers who charge people to list on their publications, websites, reservation engines etc and in New Zealand some property operators have complained about competitors giving them bad reviews, therefore saying the systems don’t work.
My message to them is that I trust my peers more than I trust advertising, especially those who have stayed at the properties. When you do advertise, make sure you are honest and deliver on your promise. When you say you have high speed WiFi Access throughout the property, make sure you do because this could be the deciding factor as to why someone books and stays with you and the one negative if it doesn’t work, that they will tell the world about.
For the app user:
- Read many reviews. Look at the dates they were posted and read them carefully. Often there are unique stories where the person had unique needs or expectations that were not met. The more reviews you read, the more you will get the real big picture. Some people are unreasonable or feel that if they are doing a review they have to find fault. Do other people contradict their comments or are there common threads?
- Think about what your needs and time frames are. For example I got a cheap hotel for one night in New Orleans as we were arriving at 1AM and leaving again first thing in the morning. The review said it was clean and tidy but the air conditioning was noisy. They were right, but we knew we were going to be so tired after 30 hours of traveling that it wouldn’t keep us awake and the price and location was good.
- We ended up rating properties based on the things we were looking for and canceling out any that looked dodgy, for example several had complaints about bed bugs.
- We were able to ‘star’ the ones we thought were ok for a re-look.
- We also looked for situations where people had complained and the manager of the property came back and offered solutions and responses. In some cases there were managers who responded to every comment good and bad.
- The problem is that there are many options and when you are doing a road trip and trying to find attractions etc, you can easily waste hours of what should be relaxation time on your trip, but this is one of the costs of being a FIT.
- Tripadvisor offers many choices of reservation engines and price checks. I quickly found that once I had found a property I liked, a phone call to their front desk not only got me a cheaper price than all of the reservation sites, but also cooperation on a better room. Many properties will put you in a crappy room next to the laundry, the road or the busy swimming pool when you get a cheap online booking. If someone recommends a room number and their review sounds like what you are looking for, ask for that room.
Tips for the Tourist Operator:
- Your property is likely to end up in tripadvisor whether you submit it or not.
- People will talk about your property whether you like it or not. Most of them will be bona-fide guests who benefited from the application and are therefore sharing their experience.
- Put yourselves in their shoes. Your business is about hospitality and for your guest it is totally personal. Treat them as you would your family.
- When people make a comment about your business, good or bad, acknowledge and respond to it.
- If you sell rooms cheap on reservation engines don’t automatically give them the crappy room that you never sell if there are better rooms that are going to stay empty. I had a property in Auckland, Sebel Suites, do that to me early this year. They said they could only give me a room with a view of the carpark, because I had booked
on a cheap promotion. The thing was that they didn’t sell many of the nice rooms overlooking the beautiful Auckland Viaduct Basin that night (I followed up the next morning), but if they had, it wouldn’t have been fair to the people who paid full price. So here’s my advice to them, which the Duty Manager didn’t want to hear. I live on the outskirts of Auckland. I have the choice to go home, but sometimes my wife and I like to go to a show, or out for a night, have a few drinks and not have to worry about driving home. We have stayed in many properties in Auckland. We have told all of our friends and tripadvisor which ones we liked and which ones we felt let us down. We will never again go to the Sebel Suites, we will go back to hotels like the Sky City Grand which has some great promotions on their site. As I said, it travel and tourism is personal.
- Make sure your business is on sites and apps like TripAdvisor.
Bottom line, I almost hated tripadvisor by the end of my holiday because we became almost fanatic about reading the reviews. We found the star ratings didn’t help much and whilst there was a function to save the ones we wanted to revisit, we couldn’t also flag the ones to avoid. We spent a huge amount of time on the site, BUT in every location we found exactly what we expected. We knew which rooms to avoid, and quickly learned to read between the lines.
For developers, this is an excellent site / application to learn from, not perfect but very good, even using your location on your mobile to help you find locations. For users, do give back. If you value crowd sourced feedback and make decisions based on it, you need to give back as well. If you are in New Zealand or Australia, talk to us at GeoSmart. We can help you with practical experience as both frequent travellers and users of apps and a mapping company that cares very strongly about the quality of our location-based data, maps, Points of Interest and the success of applications developed using it. We are local and keen to help. If you are here, but aiming for the world, we can help you get a start based on what we know about the industry and our experience as travelers. We want to help grow New Zealand international success stories.
Planning a road trip somewhere or know somene who is? The may be interested in this series of blogs, which they can find at https://luigicappel.wordpress.com Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think may benefit from it. I wish I had been given a lot of this advice before I left for my trip.
I will follow this up with some ideas as to what would have made tripadvisor a better app for the road tripper, which may be of interest to people looking at developing apps for travel and tourism and am happy to discuss my ideas and experience.
This is a follow on from my previous blogs.
So when you do it all yourself, the first things you start worrying about are whether the bookings you made will be honored. I printed off 2 copies of everything including copies of our passports because there is always the risk that your luggage will not arrive at the same place as you do. I emailed copies to myself as well so I could access them from a variety of sources as well.
Some properties are really good at responding to your requests and others seem to have all the technology but really don’t manage it very well. I once arrived, excited to be at the Pink Flamingo in Las Vegas, booked through a travel agent who through time zones were asleep, when the front desk told me they had no record of my booking and were full with a conference. After a lot of pressure they found me a room for one night and then I was on my own, so I have reason to be cautious. When I booked my first night’s accommodation at the Days Inn at New Orleans Airport using the Booking.com app on my iPad, I requested a quiet room and confirmation that they would pick me up at the airport when I arrived at the airport. I didn’t get confirmation, so I rang them a couple of days before I left. They told me to call from the airport when I arrived. No problem there.
Another thing I would recommend if you are going on a long trip and have kids or family at home you need to stay in touch with, is to arrange free-calling from home to the country you are going to. I have that set up with Orcon already for my music business. Effectively from home anyone can call any number on the USA, including mobiles for up to one hour at a time. We used that a lot.
I also tried a few VOIP / Mobile apps for low-cost communication. The one we used daily was Voxer. They promote their application as a Walkie Talkie and one of its key features is a push to talk function. The nice thing is that the other person doesn’t actually have to be there or respond straight away. It also allows you to send photos and TXT messages without using the mobile phone system, so much cheaper. It was also an easy way to let them know to call us.
One of the things I found when I did my research on how I was going to be able to plan our trip on a daily basis was which properties had applications of their own, such as for Apple devices. In most cases what I found was that a very large number of properties in the hospitality and tourism industry had very nice brochureware applications. They seem to be typically template driven, designed to keep the cost down, but the weakness with most of them was that once the property had set up the application, or paid a developer to do it for them, they forgot all about it and didn’t keep them up to date. This reminded me very much of the tourism industry in general when it comes to web sites. It doesn’t inspire people to visit the property which is surely the reason they pay for them in the first place. I also found that hardly any of them took advantage of the ability to use the GPS in Smartphones and provide directions based on your location.
I suspect that many destinations do not appreciate the number of people using Smartphones and web applications and also the fact that those people are typically at the higher income level and the type of customers they want visiting their business.
One that really impressed me big time was Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. Not far from New Orleans. I was keen to enjoy some history about plantation life and slavery and based on their web presence, booked 2 nights in a historic Doctors House, which was restored to original condition, supplemented by a massive spa bath, cable TV and air conditioning.
They have a great website, excellent iPhone and Android applications, which are well worth downloading and trying out even if you don’t go there, because they are excellent examples of getting it right. They also have a Facebook page, are on Pinterest, YouTube and much more. Many of these pages are updated daily and their use of social media and location is matched by their professionalism when you visit. It is little wonder that they do exceptionally good business. Anyone looking at how to grow their destination business could do well to use them as an example.
There are several plantations in the area, but this one is by far the busiest and I am sure it is their use of technology combined with Southern hospitality and attention to detail at all levels that gets random people like me from the other side of the world to visit. If you are in Australia or New Zealand and want to do something similar, we have partners at GeoSmart who can assist, but you do need to understand that setting up applications and pages are the start, not the end. It is not build it and they will come, it is about maintaining it consistently and engaging with people. This will come up again and again during this series of blogs about road trips and FIT tourists and travellers.
Yesterday I wrote a blog called Location Based Lessons from FIT USA Road Trip and I am going to write a series of blogs about this experience.
At first it wasn’t going to be a road trip. As a songwriter I wanted to go to Memphis and Tennessee. I also wanted to go to places that neither I nor my wife had been, so all our experiences would be mutually new.
I would have loved to go to the Country Music Awards in Nashville, but we were too late to get tickets and accommodation in and around Nashville was up about 400% during the festival week. I googled tours for the Tennessee area and the awards and came up with pretty much nothing. There was a tour from Australia, but I really didn’t want to spend a couple of weeks with Aussies. It turned out there was a NZ tour going, I actually met them randomly in Chattanooga including getting a hug from the fantastic fiddler Marian Burns, who had so much fun playing that she had lost her voice. It was odd being in a country where people think NZ is either in Australia or somewhere below Wyoming, one woman said NZ is fabulous, they have some amazing homes in the Balkans, but I digress and she was from Alabama:)
So I contacted a few travel agents in Auckland. I visited a few and asked for brochures for the USA. No one had anything other than cruises. I then went on websites and phoned a few, saying I would like a rental car and to basically do a 3 week driving tour, focussing on Tennessee and Mississippi, based around music and history. What could they do for me. I quickly found out that they had no experience in the USA and the options they came up with made very little sense and were hugely expensive. They were not particularly helpful and their ideas ranged from fly to Chicago and drop the car back in Kansas to why don’t you do a tour of Canada. Their quotes for flights and rental cars were way above retail. They didn’t tell me about interstate drop off fees and I ended up doing half the work for them and still found them wanting.
So off to the net and DIY from scratch. The first thing I did was find the Tennessee Tourist Development Department who kindly posted me a tour book and map of the State. This was hugely helpful. I spent a lot of time reading, using Post It Tags and looking on Google Maps. I searched some car rental sites and found that Thrifty had the best deals by far and I managed to get a Ford Escape SUV for under half of the best prices that NZ travel agents offered me.
The next step was, while I wanted to be a FIT traveller, I needed somewhere to crash on the first night in New Orleans as we were arriving around midnight. I installed the Booking.com application which was recommended to me and booked an airport hotel, The Days Inn, for the first night, a couple of weeks in advance. I didn’t want to pick up a rental car in a city and start driving on the wrong side of the road at midnight after about 30 hours of travel and little sleep. The nice thing with Booking.com is that you can book and provide your credit card details, but in most cases if you cancel within a certain time, they don’t penalize you or take your money.
I also installed TripAdvisor on my iPhone and iPad which was both my lifeline and my nemesis. More on this in upcoming blogs. I relied heavily on the reviews on TripAdvisor and they never let me down. TripAdvisor was the best app I used on the whole trip, but it was incredibly time-consuming. It told me that The Days Inn was closest to the airport, had a free shuttle to the airport and that many rooms had noisy air conditioning. I figured we were going to be so tired it wouldn’t matter and I was right.
TripAdvisor is an excellent location based services application for not only acccomodation, but also places to eat and things to do. Of all the apps I used, this was the best, but it still left me wanting. This was a great lesson for me as a location based services and mobile data evangelist, eating the dog food so to speak. As I mentioned in the previous blog, I have learned so much on this trip and the big lesson is that if you are not a geek, then you have a massive learning curve with mobile data location based apps as available today. If you are a developer, particularly down under, you have brilliant opportunities to develop new applications that are more user friendly, and I can help.
I then started planning for the next 2 nights in Louisiana, which I will discuss in my next blog. I will mention that we placed a bid on MyAirNZ for a Skycouch as this was my wife’s longest flight to date (Auckland to Los Angeles) and we had 2 more flights straight after that to get to New Orleans. We were told that we could bid for upgrades using airpoints and considered that as an option but looking at the Premier Economy that looked really impressive (and obviously felt so, looking at the big grin of a retired senior politician beaming at me from one of them on the return flight to NZ) they didn’t allow you to lie down, or get anywhere remotely like that. If there are two of you and you are happy to lie down in spoon position, I’d go with the cheaper Skycouch option and note that if they are not all sold, they get cheaper the closer you get to the flight, although there is a risk that if you wait too long you miss out.
I also installed Air NZ mPass on my iPhone which I also strongly recommend you add to your smartphone. It was quite helpful at times, which I will also explain later, at least when it comes to Air NZ flights, but not very helpful for code shares where it pretty much failed.
In my next blog I will discuss my next two days and how the American tourist and hospitality industry is getting really well-connected when it comes to mobile apps, social media and web sites, but there are major disconnects between having the apps and doing something with them. They appear to be ahead of New Zealand when it comes to business prescence on apps and websites, which is something NZ travel and tourism businesses need to address, because inbound tourists are going to have expectations I don’t believe we are meeting. A large percentage of those tourists will have smartphones and expect more. On the other hand, whilst everything looks wonderful, many properties pay lip service to social and location based media after they have invested in the technology and completed the app sign off. This is a similar attitude that many properties have to their web sites. Build and forget.
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Having just returned from a 3,500km road trip through the Southern States of the USA, I am excited by the opportunities there are for location-based services in the tourist and travel industry. There are so many web sites and applications out there, but unless you are very savvy, being a FIT (Free Independent Traveller) on the road wanting to see and experience as much as possible is actually difficult, tiring and time-consuming.
I have spent a lot of time writing about what I think the industry needs both in New Zealand and internationally and the opportunities for developers to use tools such as those provided by various location-based services providers such as GeoSmart. I’ve written about it from the perspective of how certain industries such as hospitality, attractions, regional tourism operators could better achieve their goals and how the public can use these apps. This was the first time I have spent a length of time driving a rental vehicle through parts of the USA I have never visited before and I now have an even better perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of the sites and apps out there.
The news is good for some apps and not so good for others. I firmly believe that in future we will become connected in an almost neural fashion (not talking wires to the brain here) in a way that each of us can have the experience we want and find people and places that will allow us to have the perfect experience, whilst supporting those businesses that are trying to making a living from providing those experiences.
I’m still working through how to share this information and help make some of these things happen. My blogs will form part of this, but I look forward to talking with the developer community, tourism operators and others, presenting at some more conferences this year and also exploring ways for GeoSmart to be involved in partnering in solutions that could be world leading.
I now understand a little about why people asked me when I was in the USA, “Why are you doing a road trip?” I knew why, because I wanted to see how real America lives, not the people in the city brown stone apartments, but real people in small town USA. I wanted to eat where they did, listen to music where they did and experience the country without the hype. The problem is that there are so many delights and so many pitfalls and without having months or years to do it in, so little information accessible in real-time about what is around you.
If this is of interest to you, follow this blog and some of the links I will share. If you want to do something about your industry, develop or improve applications or help push the world towards solutions that really work. Please feel free to contact me through this blog, or through LinkedIn.
Have you ever noticed that whatever application people come up with, you are always hungry for the next big thing? Well I am, especially when it comes to mobility and location based applications. I and several of my friends and associates tend to look 5 years into the future on a regular basis and are always looking to innovate with features or technology that either doesn’t exist yet, is still too expensive, or the target market still doesn’t get it. That’s probably where we will always live.
The good thing about that is that as a consequence of our focus, the building blocks for the things we dream about become much more apparent to us when they arrive and we want to share those things with you.
There were 2 standouts for me this week. The first is that Foursquare is launching push at their hackathon which starts tomorrow. You can read more about this on my GeoSmart blog. Basically it means that developers from tomorrow will be able to use an API that sends a push notification for users of their apps. For example a bar could send a notification to you telling you that there are friends of yours in the bar and offer you a deal to come and join them.
The other is in combining Location Based Technology with Game Mechanics, or Gamification. There is a very good 101 presentation about this on Slideshare by Aaron Strout of WCG.
I’ve met with a number of people developing location based games and the game element is a factor that I believe will really pull people in. I have just downloaded TapCity onto my iPhone and iPad after watching a podcast video interview on Untether.tv (one of my favourite location based podcasts) with Dave Bisceglia co founder and CEO of The Tap Lab. I strongly recommend that you watch this video or listen to the audio version if you are interested in location based games or proximity based marketing. These guys have big plans and dreams and I believe they are going to be a huge success. I have to also mention how impressed I was with their response to a couple of questions I had from them.
If you join the game, you will find I have 2 personae, Luigi C and Claes C, mainly because I first set it up on my iPad and then found that it was more suited to my iPhone. Anyway try out the app which you can download in the iTunes Appstore for free, friend me and tell me what you think. I was pretty impressed that for a relative start up, they already have players all over the world, in fact someone already owns my office! I won’t settle for that, but was impressed that it was even there.
The concepts are all very well, but if you want to look at proximity based marketing, location based games etc as part of your marketing plan, the best way is to experience what someone else is doing. As you will learn in the interview or on their website, this is just the beginning for them. They have some very exciting plans. What I don’t know as yet is whether they plan to release API’s or whether all their development is going to be inhouse.
Either way we can learn a lot from these people. I hope they are hugely successful in monetizing their games both for their innovatio and foresight and to show everyone else that this can work. If they can sell virtual items in the same way as Zynga has on Farmville, then imagine what Burgerfuel, Borders, your regional tourism operator, world cup events like rugby organisors could do with real items!