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IN-DEPTH: Interview with GateGuru’s CEO Daniel GellertNew York City-based Mobility Apps, the company behind the GateGuru iPhone application, believes that its tool can add a lot of value to the overall experience of various travel applications. GateGuru is a new tool devised to transform the chaotic and unfamiliar airport environment into a more satisfying experience before and after flights, and
Published: 05 Jul 2010
IN-DEPTH: Interview with GateGuru’s CEO Daniel Gellert
New York City-based Mobility Apps, the company behind the GateGuru iPhone application, believes that its tool can add a lot of value to the overall experience of various travel applications. GateGuru is a new tool devised to transform the chaotic and unfamiliar airport environment into a more satisfying experience before and after flights, and during layovers.
Over the last two months, Mobility Apps has been in news for its association with travel search engine Kayak and JetBlue.
The application covers more than 8,000 amenities across close to 100 airports in the US, Canada and London. The company says there is a very attractive model around mobile couponing and working with airport retailers to give discounts and offers to drive consumers into stores.
“We launched our platform in the beginning of June that allows airport retailers to give offers to GateGuru users, and we already have 10 of the top airport retailers on board using our platform. These retailers are giving GateGuru users exclusive deals and so far the response has been tremendous,” Daniel Gellert, chief executive officer of the company told EyeforTravel in an exclusive interview.
Kayak recently became the first partner to distribute the GateGuru content. GateGuru’s database of amenities have been integrated into the travel search engine’s iPhone application under a new feature called “Airports”.
Through this partnership, users will be able to launch or download the full GateGuru app directly from the Kayak iPhone app. Similar to the GateGuru app, the user’s location will determine the nearest airport, or users can select any available airport. Once the desired airport has been selected, users can access Gate Guru’s entire list of food, shop and service amenities. Users can filter the full list by selecting various categories to quickly and easily find a specific type of amenity.
GateGuru has also been in news for a new advertising platform that connects advertisers with frequent travellers. The company also recently signed an advertising deal with low-cost carrier JetBlue.
In order to know more, EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta recently spoke to Gellert. Excerpts:
The aviation industry is witnessing several breakthrough mobile applications. How do you assess the situation today from a traveller’s perspective?
Travel and mobility go hand in hand. There are many businesses emerging that before the advent of mobile applications, didn't make a lot of business sense. Flight tracking is one example. Now that "apps" have arrived, companies are starting to fill these holes of unmet needs for travellers. When I look at what I can do now while travelling (check my flight status, check in via a mobile boarding pass, use GateGuru while at the airport, make a reservation at a restaurant, etc), I am amazed at how things have improved for the travellers. And the crazy thing is that this is just the beginning.
What according to you are still the major challenges in meeting the full potential of applications such as one being offered by your company?
I think the biggest challenge is that while the app world is a sizeable market, there are still lots of consumers who do not yet have smart phones, or whose smart phones are not optimised for the app experience. As a result, a large part of the market is still yet to come on board. As the mobile browser gets better, I believe the notion of "apps" will go away and it will become a more seamless browsing experience.
Mobility Apps intends to continue to expand GateGuru to additional platforms, devices and geographies in 2010. Can you elaborate on your expansion plans?
Currently we are on iPhone only. We plan on expanding to Android next as well as Blackberry. We hope to have both of these platforms done by year-end 2010. In terms of geographies, right now we cover the top 100 airports across the US and Canada as well as London Heathrow. We are soon expanding to Europe and hope to launch many of these airports by fall 2010.
GateGuru is the new companion for travellers in the era of Web 2.0 and instant access. How do you intend to monetise your offering?
We are not currently overly concerned with monetising our offering. Long-term we think there is a very attractive model around mobile couponing and working with airport retailers to give discounts and offers to drive people into stores. We launched our platform in the beginning of June that allows airport retailers to give offers to GateGuru users, and we already have 10 of the top airport retailers on board using our platform. These retailers are giving GateGuru users exclusive deals and so far the response has been tremendous.
GateGuru recently updated its iPhone app to include a new advertising platform that connects advertisers and marketers with frequent travellers. Can you elaborate on factors you took into consideration while taking this initiative?
The major factor taken into consideration was the GateGuru user base and how could this enhance the product in their eyes. We are very user focused when making any product decisions. We didn’t want to introduce “advertising” into the application, but we did want to offer our users the opportunities to get exclusive deals on airport retail. Since we launched our platform, there have been Tweets, Facebook posts as well as emails from users talking about deals they have gotten through our app, which is clearly not something that would result from traditional advertising.
It has been mentioned that through its tie-up with GateGuru, JetBlue is attempting to reach frequent travellers in its biggest markets who aren’t necessarily patronising its planes yet. How do you think technology, especially new applications on smart phones, is offering airlines with additional sales channels and attractive functionality to build customer loyalty?
“Mobile” is going to be a real game changer for the entire travel industry. Those companies who see the opportunity in it, will carve out a space in the consumers’ mindset, and as a result, their brand will be much better off. Those that do not proactively go after mobile will not have as competitive of an offering. We were excited to work with JetBlue as our launch partner, as they understood how GateGuru makes a traveller’s life easier (current JetBlue as well as those not yet travelling on their airline) and recognised the positive association that would come from a partnership.
Other than JetBlue, GateGuru also recently tied up with travel meta search engine, Kayak. Can you elaborate on how are you looking at integrating your services with travel intermediaries or other travel companies for distribution of your content?
Kayak is a great partner. They are one of the major brands leading the charge in mobile and their top management team recognises the potential of the medium. GateGuru’s structured database of airport amenity information (including over 15,000 ratings and reviews), is unique content that has value to many players within the travel ecosystem.
We recognise that not everyone will download the GateGuru app, however we believe our content has a lot of value to travellers in general, so we believe licensing our content makes a lot of sense. At the end of the day, we have a strong pulse on the in-airport experience and can add a lot of value to the overall experience of various travel applications. As we have the most accurate and up to date database of airport amenities, many people have reached out to us in regards to licensing our data. This area has moved quicker than we expected, but that has worked in our favour.
How do you assess the emergence of location-based applications in the travel industry
The location aspect of mobile is exploding and is part of what makes the mobile offering so compelling. Apps that leverage location to increase the utility of the experience are approaching this the right way. It is easy to get carried away with location - and we have seen this in some apps - by over engineering what needs to be a simple solution into something more complex. Location is not the answer for everything, but often serves as a good way to enhance an app. We use location in GateGuru to pick up the closest airport for easy access for the user. We are exploring other ways of integrating location into our offering.
Any plans of embracing features such as location-based offerings and augmented reality, or are you looking at working with other developers to add such features? What’s on your agenda?
When AR is done right, it is a great feature. In travel apps, I largely believe AR will not be a big hit. People are often trying to access information quickly and while on the go - AR is not great for that. We are happy with our location offerings today, but to the extent that we believe we can create a more compelling experience by leveraging additional location features, we are interested in that.