Stockholm-based GuidePal announced today it has reached one million registered users for its social travel guides. Previously, we covered the travel guide app when it reached four million downloads for its individual apps for multiple cities, which it has since consolidated into a single app that requires users to register before they can pick their destination of choice. The company launched the new multi-city app in April 2012, and reports a new registration every 30 seconds and users in over 170 countries.
“Downloads is downloads. You know someone downloads your guide, but you don’t know if they use the app or not, once they sign up, you know it, so now we have one million people using GuidePal,” CEO Peter Schierenbeck said in an interview, adding that they started requiring user registration in August 2011, prior to launching the multi-city app.
The company also added a new iPad app, which features curated editorial articles on recommended hotels, restaurants, and things to do in over 60 cities. Schierenbeck recognizes that travel is an infrequent activity, and user engagement is often condensed into short time frames. The company’s strategy is to start pitching the app as a great discovery platform and add a newsfeed feature that lets it double as a travel magazine.
The other feature it’s currently testing is its augmented reality component in which users can point their phones at their surroundings to have a map generated that tells them where they are and how far they are away from an attraction (users can also use the app’s map features to do the same thing without an AR component). The company has found that so far the augmented reality feature isn’t used often, making the company debate whether it’s an essential component that they’ll continue to include.
Schierenbeck noted that the travel guide space today is increasingly getting more competitive in what he refers to as three main ways travelers find out how to go about planning their trip. “There’s user-generated content, where TripAdvisor is very dominant, it’s a great service, however they have a problem with fake reviews and content overflow and what really to trust. Then there’s the old school editorial products, of course they differ, LonelyPlanet will send someone out to write, we have local experts. Then there’s a social app that connects friends and travel,” Schierenbeck added. “We believe the best way to tackle the problem is to combine high-quality editorial with social, so we want to start engaging people around our content.”
By better engaging its user base, it hopes to gather more feedback as it experiments with different ways to monetize the platform, ranging from hotel, tours and restaurant bookings to having a freemium approach to its content, where users would pay for more premium or in-depth content.
Another trend travel guide apps are looking to take advantage of is the rise in tablet usage, with GuidePal competitor Triposo recently launching an iPad app that acts as a travel magazine for exploring and bookmarking city hotspots, while their mobile app acts still has more of a discovery on the go feel to it. We’ve also covered apps like Trover, which launched a web companion to their mobile app to drive user engagement in and around travel plans with emphasis on curation of the most entertaining photo-centric content. However, Schierenbeck thinks GuidePal’s big differentiator is their focus on providing short and compact guides that are updated more often.
“In the editorial space that we’re in, the key differentiator is that we have a smaller and much more updated selection. For example, if you look at LonelyPlanet’s Barcelona guide, it’s between 200-300 restaurants, we have 25-35. It’s much more about everything that’s in there is fantastic, it’s much more of a shortlist. People don’t want too much, they just want someone to handpick what’s good right now,” Schierenbeck said.
Getting travelers to interact and engage has been something travel guides apps are struggling to do. Schierenbeck said that travelers have a tendency to source from several guides, meaning that GuidePal doesn’t necessarily have to be the only guide a user references, just one they consult in their trip planning process. With a base of one million users, and a new focus on one central multi-city app, the company will likely have an easier time convincing users to return when they’re planning their next vacation.