What’s Most Important in a Travel Tablet App?
I've known Daniel Brody for going on 15 years now, all the way back to his time as a tech guru at Radio Beacon, a warehouse management software company acquired by Accellos Inc. in 2006. Just a few weeks ago, he showed up at my office unannounced and shoved an iPad in my face. Brusque, yes, but the app on display more than made up for the rushed treatment.
Daniel Brody is the President of iHorse Technologies (http://ihorsetechnologies.com), a company specializing in technology solutions for business, and he's been working in conjunction with the tablet ebook/app company PadWorx Digital Media Inc. (http://padworxdigital.com), both out of Toronto. The app he demonstrated, called ‘There's NOTHING Like Australia!', was a prototype for a new breed of interactive tourism apps, in this instance showcasing the great nation and continent of Australia. It was bold; it was intriguing; it wasn't quite like anything I'd seen before - videos, immerse sounds and sliders, all generated from a core gaming engine. I had to sit down with Daniel for an interview so that managers know where this side of the hospitality industry is headed.
What's your background in the software industry?
I have a wide range of experience with over 20 years in the industry, specializing in operational and information technology as well as implementing supply chain and warehouse management in North America's leading facilities. I have been published regularly in leading trade magazines and I am member of the York Technology Association. I have a successful history of launching software companies and gaining a wide range of industry experiences in complex projects.
What prior exposure have you had to the hospitality industry?
While the ‘There's NOTHING Like Australia!' app is PadWorx's first app for the hospitality industry, it is the latest of several successful marketing apps PadWorx has produced. ‘Alice: Madness Returns' (Electronic Arts) and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman Storybook' (NBC-Universal) were interactive promo apps designed for the entertainment industry to deliver a branded message through a unique interactive narrative experience.
I arranged this interview to expand on the ‘There's NOTHING Like Australia!' app you showed me. How does the software work? What makes it unique?
Built on a proprietary engine that allows for customized features and pan-platform distribution, the ‘There's NOTHING Like Australia!' app provides each reader with a unique opportunity to see 13 of the best locations in Australia through the eyes of various travelers. Interactive, first-person journals relate the ideal journeys of everyday tourists, providing readers with a fun and insightful ground-eye view of Australia. Also distinctive, innovative full-bleed video is incorporated directly into each storytelling experience.
The app also boasts a guide section that beautifully presents over 100 of the best places to visit. Readers can learn about museums, spas, outback wilderness excursions and much more. And with its ‘Itinerary' feature, any of the 100 places can be selected to build up a potential trip as unique as each reader.
What does it take to build such a powerful application?
First of all, it takes an adaptable software base that can publish to any platform. It also takes an experienced team possessing an assortment of complimentary talents and skills. From artists to programmers and managers, the PadWorx team represents a wide range of experience and backgrounds, all of whom are free to bring creative ideas to the table.
Communication, of course, is a vital component, not only among team members, but also with the client. Knowing what they want ensures an end product that surpasses expectations. Our team kept in daily (nightly, in fact, given geography) contact with our Australian liaisons, providing numerous concept drawings, mock-ups and intermediary builds. In a very real sense, the app was as much crafted as it was built. Finally, both the client and our development team had the vision and motivation to see and get to where we needed to go.
What do you find is different or unique for apps built specifically for the hospitality industry? What do these consumers want?
In true left-brain right-brain fashion, consumers want to simultaneously know and feel. They want to know the important facts that will help them to decide the where, when and how to travel. As well, they want this information presented quickly and cleanly within the app.
At the same time, consumers appreciate an app that gives them a flavor of what they will feel when they arrive. For the ‘There's NOTHING Like Australia!' app, we gave consumers the best of both worlds by providing both narrative and informational content. Presented as ‘Experience' and ‘Discover', users can feel what it is like to travel to 13 locations within Australia by reading a series of interactive, text and image journals. All this is complemented by video, sound and animation effects to fully immerse a reader.
How important is interactivity for tablet apps?
Interactivity is the defining feature of all apps. But there are degrees of interactivity and the bar is continuously being raised. Users not only want to decide what content they consume and in what order, they want ever more interaction in how they consume content. Personalization, socialization, customization and ‘game-ification' are quickly becoming expected features of all apps, even in the travel and hospitality industry.
What do you feel will be most important for hospitality tablet apps in the near future?
Obviously, information comes first. Above all else, users want to make informed decisions about how to spend their time and money, and apps that cater to this need will be more sought after than those that don't. Building on this, users want interaction and information rich apps that anticipate the types of questions they have about specific products as well as stream specific user profiles towards desired content as quickly as possible. Hospitality apps must leverage social networks - particularly the experiences of other users - to dovetail the brand message, but this must be done in a useful and meaningful way. Lastly, hospitality apps will need to be truly mobile, presenting travelers with relevant information in real-time based on their individual preferences and GPS location.
Larry Mogelonsky (email@example.com) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc. (www.lma.ca), an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University.