With the recent release of the Goby iPhone application and the Tnooz showcase of the Siri-dot-com offering, there is a definite increase in interest in on location mobile services that can benefit travelers in destination.
Anecdotal data indicates that about 80% of bookings made by travelers for in-destination services occur when in destination (rather than pre-trip).
Presuming that this data is correct, the potential impact on local businesses could be significant if these mobile applications can convert travelers into customers for local businesses.
The question for small operators is how can they get exposure from these applications. Many, such as the Viator mobile site require an existing business relationship with the retailer. Some, like Goby which is a meta-search tool, scrape the web for relevant content and then organizes it for inclusion in the search engine.
Still others, like Siri are using existing APIs like the OpenTable, StubHub, Rezgo and others to pull data. In the case of the latter, businesses using these services will most likely be included in the application by default.
Because there is no true one stop source for access to tour and activity (things to do) data for these apps, the best bet for being included is to:
- Add yourself to Google local search. Consider this a universal business listing.
- Ensure your Yellowpages or other local business listing is up to date. Ensure your phone number is updated. Despite the fact that many travelers are using mobile devices, they are still relying on their phones for most local contact.
- Make sure your website clearly describes what you do, where you are located, and your times of operation. This makes scraping your site much easier for tools like Goby.
- Get yourself ready for on-line bookings by organizing your product data, preparing your content, and getting your pricing and availability in order. Take a look at this handy article from The Savvy Operator more information about this.
- Start using a booking or reservation system that supports distribution of your data through standard formats. For the purposes of in-app bookings, using a software as a service will most likely provide you with easier access to these new mobile platforms than a stand-a-lone system.
- Make sure your local DMO has your updated information and encourage them to partner with application builders instead of re-inventing the wheel.
As the number of mobile applications grow there will be more and more need for relevant content for local search and in destination.
If tour operators want to be included in the shift toward mobile than they need to ensure that they include themselves in as many sources of data as possible including local business listings, reseller partners, and specialty directories.Stephen A. Joyce has been working as a travel & tourism technology consultant since 1995. In 2005 Stephen and his company, Sentias Software Corp., began development on Rezgo.com, a next generation Web 2.0 tour and activity booking engine for SME travel suppliers and tour operators. In June of 2007, Rezgo.com was officially released and now boasts a user base of 900+ companies. Stephen is also very active in fostering tourism technology and is co-chair of the Board of Directors of the OpenTravel Alliance, a non-profit organization whose mandate is to develop and foster messaging standards for travel e-distribution. http://tourismtechnology.rezgo.com