Rosen researchers collaborate to create Aruba travel guide app
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 16:09
A new app, created based on research done by professors at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, has more than 10,000 downloads and mostly four- and five-star reviews.
The Official Aruba Travel Guide app is available for both iPhone and Android users to download for free. The Aruba Tourism Authority launched it during the summer, based on a tourism plan created by the Dick Pope Sr. Institute for Tourism Studies at Rosen College.
“We developed the model for the app, and then they took it from there,” said Manuel Rivera, co-author of the research. “They [ATA] designed it based on the recommendations that we made.”
When asked to create a tourism master plan for Aruba, Rivera, along with Robertico Croes, Yun Ying Zhong and a team of graduate students, accepted the challenge. They met with several business owners and companies in Aruba to get a feel for the island and then took to the streets — and resorts — to survey tourists.
“We saw that Aruba has a very loyal tourism base,” Rivera said. “Almost 90 percent of them said that having a mobile device would enhance their experience.”
The app was designed for tourists to use not only during, but before and after their vacation as well. It operates completely offline, preventing roaming charges, unless users would like to share their pictures and content, which is one of the options offered.
Additional features include information about the island, interactive maps, and recommendations and ratings for local attractions, restaurants, accommodations, shopping, nightlife and more. It also contains a Coupons and Vouchers category filled with offers, such as $10 off diving and a 20 percent discount at Caribbean Palm Village Resort.
Users are invited to rate and review their experience at different locations on the island and can create a personalized itinerary, based on their preferences, through the Trip Genius feature.
Another unique option is the Augmented Reality. Users point their phone’s camera at a location and fact bubbles pop up on the screen, similar to VH1’s pop-up videos.
“So far everything looks very promising,” Rivera said. “Tourists seem satisfied, the clients are very happy with the outcome and we put forth a product that will hopefully be adopted by the tourists very well.”
According to reviews gathered so far, the app has earned 4.4 out of five stars. Most users praise the abilities of the app, but note that it needs to add more locations and gather more information about pricing.
A one-star review posted last month by a user identified only as Michael, said, “Please take the time and update the hotels and restaurants. You are missing many of the big and popular hotels in Aruba.”
According to the app’s website, an updated version of the app has already been released, and additional updates are expected almost daily.
“We have set a goal of 100,000 [downloads] within one year,” said Rayon Koolman, who is part of the ATA’s digital marketing team. “We want, and are working hard, for it to perform as flawless as possible.”
The project took almost a year to complete. The final results of Rivera’s research were submitted to the ATA last December at a tourism summit. The master plan included research on restaurant products, Aruba’s labor force and the needs of its employees in relation to tourism.
After receiving the results, the ATA immediately began working on the app’s development. It is one of several different projects that has stemmed from the tourism master plan created by Rivera and his team. Additional products are currently being developed, Rivera said, but cannot be talked about until they are released.
“Their research has helped us in defining new directions we want the app to take, helped us with our marketing plan as well as adjust and set new goals we want to achieve,” Koolman said.
The team of graduate students involved submitted its research in a paper titled, “Developing Mobile Tourism Services for a Destination: The Case of Aruba.” It won the Best Paper award at the 17th annual Graduate Education and Graduate Student Research Conference in Hospitality and Tourism.
“For us it’s very rewarding,” Rivera said. “We provided them with the tool to make a more informed decision. I hope that it becomes a total success and we’re very excited about the way it looks, and we’ve received great feedback.”