For many of us, HITEC will be the first time we have visited Austin and might be the last time. I don’t know about you, but since we’re all in — or related to — the hospitality field in some way, it’s pretty fair to say that we all want to see how Austin does hospitality!
The conference itself will be the centerpiece of it all: Bright booths, friendly exhibitors, and a chance for some excellent meetings and sessions. Since there is only a few days to take it all in, you will get the best results from the show by planning out which events and speakers to see. Fortunately, HFTP has made a HITEC 2015 app available on Android and iOS for just this purpose. But once the exhibition hall closes, what does Austin have to offer in the after-hours? Fortunately we’re well into the “age of apps”, and we have an entire spectrum of answers to that question.
Foursquare (foursquare.com) continues to be the reigning champion of local “to do” apps. Tell it what you’re looking for, and you get an endless list of results sorted by rating, distance and local reputation. Log in with your Facebook account and you can tell Foursquare your tastes for personalized recommendations and get notifications when you’re near a place you wanted to remember.
Google Maps (google.com/maps), Bing Maps (bing.com/maps), and OpenStreetMaps (openstreetmap.org) provide driving, public transit, biking and walking directions to anywhere you want. In the past few years, they have become significantly better at navigating in crowded urban areas (like downtown Austin) and giving clear directions based on your mode of transportation.
TripAdvisor (tripadvisor.com) continues to be one of the best for-profit city guides available, no matter where you stand on their previous controversies. They don’t tailor quite as specifically to your individual preferences, but they do have some of the best guides and lists for travelers that prefer some curation to their experience.
No matter which source, or combination of sources you decide to use, the one thing you shouldn’t do is forget to see the sights!
Now, for the hospitality industry perspective: Today’s guests are probably staying at your hotel, or visiting your conference center, or eating at your restaurants as part of a larger experience. There are a broad range of tools for them to find an answer to the question “what do I do next?”, but don’t forget that a traveler’s most trustworthy source will always be your staff. Getting a recommendation from someone who lives, shops, eats and plays here every day is going to rank much higher on my “I should go do that” scale than any globalized company’s opinion.
If you provide excellent service and selection, I won’t have a complaint. But if you can help enhance my overall experience with recommendations and local knowledge, I’ll make it a point to come back, just for you!
Josh Baker is the Product Development Director of HandHeld Hospitality, a hospitality software company leading the way with innovative guest engagement solutions at an affordable price. His experience with big data, ubiquitous computing, usability design, and agile management provide a unique voice and vision to HandHeld’s product line.