When social, mobile, location and every other buzzword come together
One of the themes that I have covered probably more than any other is how to get over the hype of all the new technologies and ideas.
In the two years I have been writing about innovation in travel I have wanted to see ideas that actually create something new and interesting that also delivers measurable business benefits.
From the early days when airlines and hotel chains were trying to set up social networks, to the cheer squad pushing ancillary revenue in isolation of pretty much everything else, to the mobile messiahs, semantic search svengalis, Twitter tyrants, Facebook fanboys and Foursquare fawners, many of whom slavishly jumped on every bandwagon only to then jump again to the newest shiniest gimmicky toy that was then flavor of the week, it has been a long haul trying to separate hubris from hard facts and brouhaha from business benefits.
On second thoughts, didn’t someone once say, let he who is without sin cast the first stone?
Back in April this year I wrote an article for Tnooz titled: Five untapped opportunities for mobile and travel.
Here is part of one of the five ideas I discussed: Geo-gaming.
Regarding a travel opportunity still wide open for start-ups, I’m thinking something along the lines of Foursquare meets Geocaching meets a Buzz overlay on Google Maps that pulls in content (and revenue) from a DMO, a destination content supplier, and a mobile ad network. Foursquare have been getting an incredible amount of good publicity in the just over a year since they launched. Geocaching.com is taking the scavenger hunt into the 21st century. Someone even made a movie about it. Noticings is trying to make it more of a game and SimpleGeo is making it much easier to add geo-location into your app, but none of them have quite put it together in a way that could really work in travel – some Foursqaure users are even starting to get burnt out.
I can’t be too critical of others, as to write that paragraph I’d obviously consumed a crate full of the Kool-Aid quartet of social, mobile, location and travel – an hallucinogenic mix at the best of times.
Despite trying to inspire an army of entrepreneurs to desert day jobs and chase their mobile millions, part of me did think there was an opportunity for someone to make something of geo-gaming in the travel sector. I’m still somewhat of a believer, even without the Kool-Aid.
But up until recently I hadn’t seen any examples from a travel/tourism related company pulling together most of the six or more concepts I have raised so far in this article.
Nobody was doing so in an integrated and compelling fashion with likely wide appeal (within the target segment) as opposed to something unlikely to ever grow much beyond the geek niche or unable to sustain usage after some initial hype.
That was until a colleague recently showed me a four minute video from the Vail ski resort in Colorado.
What Vail has done with EpicMix (at least as far as I can tell from watching the video clip) is created an application that should appeal to a much wider audience than just the messiahs, svengalis, tyrants, fanboys and fawners I referred to earlier.
The geo-gaming component is minimal (competing with friends to collect pins/badges) but I can also envisage this aspect of the program expanding over time.
What is impressive in Vail EpicMix is that it is a social networking mobile enabled tool that should ensure wide adoption with less chance of user burnout and fatigue
It is a social tool that lets skiers live in the moment yet creates compelling content in the background whilst you actually enjoy your vacation without the need to pull out a phone and manually perform status updates and the like.
So many of the reasons why a lot of the new technologies we in the industry often get excited about end up failing to be adopted on a large scale by the average traveler appear to have been overcome with this program from Vail.
Now all I need to do is work out how I can justify a business trip to the mountains of Colorado to test it out in person!
Martin Collings is a contributing Node to Tnooz and is currently employed as Vice President, Innovation Management & Commercialization at MasterCard Labs, based in Sydney. In this position he manages various mobile payments initiatives with his role covering the region of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Prior to MasterCard, Martin Collings spent six years with Amadeus IT Group, based in both Madrid and Chicago in a variety of airline roles, most recently as head of airline e-commerce sales for the Americas.
During his time at Amadeus he also wrote the Shearwater Blog covering various topics of interest for airline selling via direct channels. The views of Martin Collings are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of MasterCard.