Solo travelers are met with higher prices for room accommodations and many times, these serve as barriers to social interactions. Our prototype focused on the solo traveler and highlighted connecting individual needs and preferences. By connecting users, our app, Travel & Meet will help organize activities ranging from gastronomic activities to cultural events. Understanding the needs and of users and scheduling local venues with others will ensure a more immersive culturally enriched experience for travelers that decide to connect. By motivating and creating human interaction opportunities, Travel & Meet promotes mental health, which can often be a negative side effect of traveling alone.
The solo traveler must make additional accommodations as they rely on the tourism commission of where they are to visit. By creating an app that will help solo travelers pair with others, there will be financial and social benefits in their collaboration. Also, researching mental health and loneliness were found to be issues in many solo travelers. On the same note, it has been discussed that individuals have greater experiences and are willing to venture to new gastronomic and cultural experiences (Mak, Lumbers, & Eves, 2011). There is a potential for not only roommate matching but ideal accommodation selection. Users will create a profile indicating their preferences that are not currently part of other apps for lodging.
By indicating “Wake Up” and “Bedtime” on their profile, a match for rooming together would be taken into consideration. Eating and event type or preferences would also be considered in a matching system algorithm. By having a pre-planning lodging function, Travel & Meet allows users to book together as a third party bypassing the barrier that many hotels and other travel agency websites do not facilitate. Other apps such as Uber have a “Split Fare” function that would work in a similar manner. It would be specified how the individuals to will discuss living arrangements once they connect.
The creation of a user persona prepared our project for interviews in the hospitality industry. With better insights and further focus in understanding what a user would expect, our interview questions were able to target what would be needed and any impediments that would be encountered.
Our access to the hospitality industry allowed for questioning into commonly asked questions for solo travelers. It was concluded that cultural events that involve socialization are the most commonly requested. By incorporating food experiences into our research, we found that when travelers venture with others they are more likely to be immersed in the local experience and try new cuisine (Jackson, P., Watson, M., & Piper, N., 2013).
Users are to create a profile once they choose to use Travel & Meet. They enter their picture if they choose to, age, gender, and home city. They are then able to set up lodging and an agreement with another user to rent a hotel for a conference or for a nicer room by pooling their resources. Once a traveler is in their destination city they will be able to connect with those around them. Location is collected by the app using GIS technology to facilitate finding another user in proximity. Date and Time are set in the Invite Offers section of the app to indicate preference. The final step is food preference and selecting this unlocks options for those corresponding restaurants in the area at similar times. Users can use an invite matching system that will use algorithms to connect with others or they can post their event invitation so that others may join them.
Events will work in a similar fashion to the food portion of the app, however, the event will be labeled per the cultural type. For example, museums connections will most likely be highlighted during daytime hours while dance clubs will have more connections during late evening hours. This will also be considered when users are creating a profile for lodging. Bedtime and eating preferences are important in connecting users but their sleeping habits and length must also be considered.
The algorithms that will be used for the app are most importantly reserved for the timing options, especially concerning Lodging. The advantage that this app over others is the profile selection of time preferences. Other meet up apps do not indicate when a user is readily available or is just browsing. By having an indicated time and place, this will ensure that there is a place that users can meet. This becomes important for a traveling business person at a conference that would like to room with another with a similar bedtime or eating preferences. A user that prefers daytime activities and a midnight bedtime should not be connected in lodging with a user that prefers nighttime activities and a 5am bedtime while traveling.
Using the program Sketch, we created a prototype for Travel & Meet. The advantage of Sketch is the ability to create our app ranging from graphic design and connects to Invision which allows for hotspots. By using first focusing on user functionality, we created a user persona for Beverly Meyers, a professional solo traveler. Using an empathy map we could target the inner process and needs that one would encounter when traveling solo. Also, by having access to the hospitality industry, we could take field notes about the special requests and needs that many solo travelers are met when away from home.
Our prototype demonstration can be viewed below:
Application of Research
Using our knowledge of accommodations and activities expected by solo travelers, we met to discern three categories: Lodging, Food, and Culture. By categorizing these as the important needs of travelers we began to draw out how we would post activity types to allow for faster and easier connections. With the three categories selected our team began to develop a wireframe using Sketch. Sketch also allowed us to create a prototype using an iOS frame which can easily be transferred to other platforms.
Travel & Meet although a prototype determined to keep light colors for our app as it makes travelers feel comfortable and gives a sense of security which helps promote mental health when traveling. The ease of access was also taken into consideration as users can easily swipe back using the hamburger or mailbox icons.
Users will have the opportunity to select Invite Offers or see those that are already available. By having both options, users can decide whether they would like to create an even or choose to participate.
We thank all the volunteers, classmates, and our instructors Professor Lien Tran and Professor Kim Grinfeder for their constant support and feedback throughout the process. Their knowledge and guidance have led us to create an app with purpose and to stimulate social change. By focusing on organization and new technologies, we were able to create an app that would help travelers and ensure bettering their mental health.
- Mak, Lumbers, Eves, & Chang. (2012). Factors influencing tourist food consumption. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31(3), 928-936.
- 2. Chang, Kivela, & Mak. (2010). Food preferences of Chinese tourists. Annals of Tourism Research, 37(4), 989-1011.
- Mak, Lumbers, & Eves. (2011). Globalisation and food consumption in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research,Annals of Tourism Research.
- Dining Solo. (2014).American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(4), 244-245.
- Stern, J., & Stern, M. (1999). Communal dining may be the answer for those who hate to eat alone. (Column).Nation’s Restaurant News, 33(43), 30.
- Jackson, P., Watson, M., & Piper, N. (2013). Locating anxiety in the social: The cultural mediation of food fears. European Journal Of Cultural Studies, 16(1), 24-42.