Social Travel Apps Use Foursquare, Facebook Data to Tell You Where to Go

3 Apr

For many professionals – myself included — business conferences have become a routine part of the working schedule. With these conferences often comes travel to random cities, and perhaps even a day or two off to explore if you’re lucky. When you’re on unfamiliar territory, however, trying to plan a day trip often becomes a nightmare. This exact problem is what led to the new location-based app Gogobot, created by Travis Kantz. While working internationally, Kantz and his wife would spend days trying to plan traveling expeditions throughout Europe, having difficulty determining which information on travel websites was current or trustworthy. With that in mind, he decided to solve this problem by offering a travel companion that compiles the information that matters to you most.

Essentially, Gogobot acts as a travel guide that forms its reviews based on input from people within your social circle. Initially launched as a website, Gogobot lets users connect through Facebook or Twitter accounts and then view all the various places their friends have checked in to via Foursquare or written a review for. Gogobot utilizes your personal network to create a list of the top places in each city, letting you see how your friends have rated and reviewed various places. If there are no reviews available within your network, top places are then sorted by popularity amongst Gogobot users. Users can also see recommendations from those with similar interests while viewing an array of pictures for places like hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

After a high demand for a mobile app upgrade that allowed on-the-go trip planning, Gogobot launched a major upgrade at the beginning of March, turning the iPhone app into a resourceful and efficient travel planner. With the new mobile app, users are now able to pick and choose which places fit best into their travel schedule and plan their whole trip at their fingertips. Once they begin forming their travel plan, users can instantly access maps and directions, phone numbers and hours of operations, as well as place reservations at restaurants and book hotels — all through the app. Users also have the opportunity to write reviews based on places they have checked in to and add their own photos — which they can transform into custom travel postcards with the app’s photo-editing features. By submitting content, they also are able to unlock badges and achievements.

In a similar vein, last week saw the public beta launch of a new start-up that allows users to explore destinations, plan trips, and get travel recommendations from friends — Tripbirds. I know what you’re thinking right now. Social travel? My heart’s been broken too many times. I don’t know if I can commit. But here’s the thing: many smartphone users are already collecting good bars, restaurants, and photos of tourist sites on their travels through location-based services, which is useful for sharing with friends. Unlike other social travel startups that require you to create new content, Stockholm-based Tripbirds builds off of many people’s current habits.

According to founder Ted Valentin “What makes us different is that we’re building Tripbirds on top of existing services as a travel layer — on top of Facebook and Foursquare and Instagram, and even more services in the future.” 
Tripbirds then allows users to pack all this location-based information from across the web into trips where you can see all your friends location tagged photos and check-ins. The premise is fairly simple, and is executed well enough to make travel recommendations an easy favor and not a chore.

While I like the intention of Tripbirds and see the value of the “trust graph,” a service like this is always dependent on getting enough of my friends on board. Perhaps this is what Gowalla should have been or perhaps it will see the same fate? In the end, I don’t think it succeeds without the support of a mainstream travel player like Fodors.

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