Animated and visual: a new take on the boring old map

The trend towards visual media is a growing. Now an innovative firm is making maps visual and interactive and in doing so it may even create new opportunities for been-around-a-while brands. Pamela Whitby caught up with the founder Guido Colombo.

Argentine Guido Colombo, founder of start-up Go Pro Travelling, knows only too well how difficult it is to innovate in the travel space. It has taken since April 2011 until now to launch what he describes as a “truly unique” take on the boring old map. Still in beta, getting to this point has, however, been a “curious’ process”, he says.

After his eureka moment he returned to develop the initial idea in Argentina where he lived for 21 years. But various factors got in the way and he eventually decided to return to Europe; GPT has launched from Greece. Soon Thomas Ripoll, now the company’s chief technology officer, came on board (in November 2011) and this week the company launched an updated version of its interactive mapping tool, which they believe goes further than any other. It does this by animating the travel experience through maps before, during and after a trip, essentially allowing users to ‘pin’ engaging content in an interactive fashion along the entire travel chain. The tool also integrates with Facebook and Twitter in a simple way and has a very specific purpose and “increases the chance of going viral,” he says. 

Visual matters

It is an interesting concept. Maps answer a basic question for every traveller that begins with ‘where’? But it is the animation aspect of this tool that enables users to retain key aspects of a travel product and brand in a visual way. The trend towards visual media is a growing one, and should not be ignored as we reported on here (EyeforTravel, Oct 11, 2012), and there is growing evidence to suggest that customers capture up to six times more when data is visually represented.

So what is the USP of this map-planning tool? Of course, other map-based tools exist but lack this animation function. And Columbo says they are looking at closely how they can enhance content further for tour operators, online travel agents and any travel-related business with a virtual presence. This is important given the growing recognition that great travel content, visually presented, is at the heart of everything. As it is still under development, they are currently letting travel firms use it for free.

The tool is web-based and the technology the firm has deployed over Google maps’ API will help both consumers and travel industry, says Colombo, who claims both can co-exist within same environment via a content platform that enables them to connect and engage. “We help consumers to plan and map the future, and present and past trips on an interactive map, but travel brands can use the platform in the same way,” says Colombo. They can do this first by embedding the technology within their own websites, and in the future by being incorporated into the platform itself.

Right now the big advantage for travel brands is content enhancement – and at no cost (for the moment at least).  “It is a new playing field and window into content that grabs a consumer’s attention,” says Colombo.

New opportunities

Hypothetically then, how could GPT work for the likes of TripAdvisor, Expedia or TUI? Picture the scene, says Columbo: you enter their website which immediately throws up a visually exciting map which would explain where you would go, how you might get there (train, plane, horse, car) with pictures, text, music and a street view.

TripAdvisor rose to the top on great reviews, but Colombo believes they can do more to engage and stand out to sell, for as an example, real vacation rentals. “Our product would be a perfect match if they decide to cross sell different services,” he says.

Looking to the future, the plan is to develop a mobile map service that you could take with you. With the map on the device now in your pocket, before and after a trip consumers may well share, for example, where they are going, what they plan to do, where they’ve been, the photos and content they have added and what they have done.

So what you’ve sold to a traveller becomes advertising as users keep sharing – both before the trip and after.

GPT may not be perfect yet but it is certainly a curiously interesting and engaging idea.

 

 

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