#SFSNYC: How Apps Can Take Advantage of Connections Between Travel and Local

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Companies operating in the travel sector from Uber to Airbnb have been getting more and more involved in local, adding in-app connections to local businesses and events that their users can check out while traveling.

At Street Fight Summit in Brooklyn Tuesday, Jeena James, global head of travel and local for Google Play, addressed the intersection of travel and local, explaining what apps in the Android ecosystem can do to capitalize on the connections between the two.

James kicked off her talk by highlighting the growing ubiquity of mobile devices. There are now over 2 billion active Android devices in the world, and the ecosystem has seen 82 billion app installs in the last 12 months. 

Increasingly omnipresent mobile devices play a significant part throughout the traveler’s journey, which James divided into four stages: dreaming, planning and booking, experiencing, and sharing. Developers building mobile experiences related to travel and local should consider the role mobile plays in each of these stages, James said.

As for the dreaming stage, 60% of destination searches are on mobile, and 64% of users watch travel videos when thinking of a trip. Right from the start, then, travel plans in 2017 are likely to begin with mobile, and mobile searches related to travel are driven by the appeal of local sights and experiences. 

When it comes time to plan and book a trip, users are likely to rely on multiple devices. Research shows 94% of leisure travelers switch between devices as they plan or book a trip, James said, necessitating not only a strong mobile strategy for today’s travel companies but also synergy among mobile and desktop. 

Mobile, local, and travel do not cease to intersect once the trip has been booked and an app user has arrived at her destination. According to research, 85% of travelers decide on at least some of their activities after arriving at their destinations. It is for exactly this reason that hospitality and travel apps have begun adding connections to local experiences, helping users who need to make plans on the fly do so through their mobile phones.

James’ breakdown of the end-to-end mobile travel experience ends with the sharing stage. “Sharing fuels the dreaming stage,” James said. “It’s a catalyst for making your travel dreams a reality.”

In the age of Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, photos of friends in far-away places shared on social can drive consumers to book trips themselves.

Developers thinking about local and travel should also consider the user base to which they are catering, James said. While millenials are mobile pioneers, members of Gen-Z are mobile native and are even more likely than preceding generations to seek out local experiences that they can share on social. As the years go by, connecting travelers with local opportunities that can be shared on social will grow only important, she said.

James also cautioned developers and local businesses to consider digital features that grow in importance when catering to travelers. For example, tourists unfamiliar with businesses in a given area are likely to depend on online ratings. Developers can identify trends in their reviews of various quality through Google Play, which harnesses machine learning to provide analysis of recurring features complimented and criticized, James said. 

Joseph Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]