Niche App for Travel and Guides: Gowalla (#Tourism)
**UPDATE – Gowalla has been purchased by Facebook and the service will shut down at the end of January, 2012**
Gowalla is a location-based app that, until last week, shared a lot of similarities with Foursquare – the leading location-based app today. First launched about two and a half years ago, Gowalla has steadily grown to an active user-base of two million (about one fifth the number of users that Foursquare has). I’ve always liked Gowalla and I think they have a better interface and user experience than Foursquare, but there have always been so few people in Indiana who use Gowalla.
Just last week, Gowalla released a brand new version of their website and mobile app (iOS version here and Android version here) that really rebrands Gowalla. Rather than focusing on being a location-based check-in network (and, honestly, they were losing that fight to Foursquare. Even Facebook recently gave up on Places - their equivalent check-in service), Gowalla now seems to be more of a curated location guide app. If that sounds kind of weird, keep reading.
In the image above, you can see the new curated guide for the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. By working with staff at Notre Dame, Gowalla put together a great guide showcasing what visitors to the university needed to check out while they are in town. There are more than 60 curated guides available for cities throughout the world and Gowalla is working to add dozens more soon. While Gowalla has worked with select cities and destinations to create these branded and curated guides, you can still create guides on your own, both as an individual and as a DMO.
When looking at the tourism industry as a whole, there are benefits to using both Foursquare and Gowalla. If you own or work at a hotel, attraction or a restaurant, Foursquare makes more sense as they allow users to manage venues they own and offer check-in specials. But, if you work for a city, county, regional or state DMO Gowalla probably actually makes more sense to use. As a DMO, you have the built-in authority about your area and you can create great guides for anything you want – wine trails, food trails, museum guides, historic sites and more. When you create guides for your visitors, you’ve putting your stamp of authority on the guide and letting them know which things they absolutely must do before leaving your location.
Have you ever used Gowalla or Foursquare? Do you think Gowalla’s new curated guides functionality would be helpful as a visitor to a new place?