Skift Take

In a world with so many travel apps of suspect value and necessity, these three platforms deliver real improvements for users in each of the three travel categories.

Three new apps are providing a more informed travel experience for LGBT business travelers, conference attendees, and museum visitors.

All three solve a specific challenge encountered by everyone in those communities.

LGBT business travelers can now travel safer with more nuanced insight into the local laws of gay-unfriendly countries. Museum visitors can explore exhibits more seamlessly with Wi-Fi-driven, indoor proximity technology. And conference attendees now have a new Tinder-style connectivity platform for improved business networking at evening events.

LGBT Business Travel

Gay men who participate in consensual adult sex with another man in countries like India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar face life imprisonment if convicted. Punishment is less severe in places like St. Kitts where anyone caught in the “abominable crime” of same-sex relations faces 10 years in prison, with or without hard labor. In Tanzania, the minimum sentence is 30 years.

While those laws are clearly identified by the U.S. State Department and advocacy platforms like Scruff, many LGBT business travelers are nervous when their companies send them to hyper-conservative countries like those. Most corporations today don’t have LGBT-specific information in their human resource literature relating to social mores outside the U.S. for their employees traveling on company business.

To address that, gay travel experts at the Man About World media group launched a comprehensive Business Travel Guide last month that helps LGBT executives understand potential risks when traveling in countries with laws against homosexuality. The guide provides a wealth of instruction about how to travel safely, as well as testimonials from LGBT travelers who’ve traveled on business to destinations where they need to be highly vigilant about their mannerisms and conversation.

Billy Kolber founded Man About World in 2012 as, what he said was, “one of the first travel magazines designed exclusively for mobile.” Last year, he partnered with Marriott International and IBM to co-sponsor the Business Travel Guide to provide relevant and available resources for LGBT travelers.

The Guide’s key topics include Safety and Security, Resources, and LGBT Business Etiquette, along with technical advice for staying connected to home and connecting with LGBT locals in foreign countries. More content answers questions such as:

  • “Am I at risk simply because I’m gay?”
  • “Should I discuss my trip with HR?”
  • “Can I bring my HIV meds with me?”
  • “How do I change the subject when colleagues ask about my family?”
  • “How can I connect with the locals without putting myself or them at risk?”

“As a leisure traveler you’re free to avoid certain countries, but as a business traveler you often don’t have a choice, and there really aren’t any resources dedicated to gay and lesbian business travelers,” Kolber told Skift. “Business travel is lonely enough to begin with, but it can be very taxing to spend all day in the closet without any idea of what’s appropriate in certain cultures.”

Kolber added that the audience for the LGBT business travel guide is not just business travelers. It’s also for corporate travel and human resource managers who are often unaware of the potential risks that LGBT travelers face, both physically and emotionally, in 76 countries where sexual identity is either criminalized or heavily propagandized against.

Speaking about Marriott’s sponsorship of the guide, Kolber said, “They’re interested in the business market and this really fits within their desire to help all travelers be productive.” As we reported last year, Marriott has been proactive in supporting LGBT rights both internally and consumer-facing.

“We are proud to know that so many LGBT guests come to our hotels wherever their assignments take them,” stated Stacey Milne, VP, portfolio marketing strategy & planning at Marriott International, in a prepared release. “This practical resource, which includes many tips from our own Marriott associates, is one more way of making their travels as successful as we can.”

Museum Smartphone Tours

Popular for neighborhood walking tours using geolocation technology, the Detour app has been adapted for use indoors beginning this month at the newly reopened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Traditionally, museum audio tours require users to approach a piece of artwork and enter a number in a handset corresponding with the art. That requires constantly starting and stopping, making it a somewhat interruptive and impersonal experience.

Instead, Detour uses Wi-Fi indoor positioning that triangulates a visitor’s location on a virtual map designed by Apple to plot where the person is standing exactly inside the museum. When the visitor comes within a specific distance of an artwork, the app voice begins to describe the artwork in detail.

The beauty of Detour is that your phone stays in your pocket so your eyes stay focused on the art while you navigate the museum in any route at your own pace. The end goal is to create an on-demand private docent tour, except in this case the docent lives in the cloud, that is fully automated yet personal at the same time.

Detour users can also sync up to enjoy the same commentary simultaneously, making the user experience appropriate for business and social groups.

“Detour is the first touring platform to offer wireless real-time audio sync between multiple devices,” said Andrew Mason, founder of Detour. “Groups of four can be synced up at one time with the syncing feature, and when one visitor pauses, it pauses the audio for the whole group keeping everyone on the same page.”

Conference Meetups After 5

At the Collision conference in New Orleans this month — a sister event to the popular Web Summit tech show in Lisbon — attendees were encouraged to try out the new Weepo app. Launched in January, the social networking platform is designed somewhat like the Tinder dating app with left/right swiping functionality to choose or not choose other members to connect with.

Here’s how it works for event delegates: Users search through the restaurants, bars, and venues inside the app to see where other attendees are going that night. Each location in the app displays a list of people who’ve clicked that they’re going to be there that evening, so users can then decide where they want to go based on who else has already committed.

Once a specific venue has been chosen, users go through the list of other people attending while swiping left or right on each individual’s page to choose who they want to potentially meet. If the other person they’ve shown interest in also wants to meet, both parties can start a messaging dialogue in the app.

There are two important differences between Weepo and Tinder. Weepo is location-based, meaning you can find people based on where they’ll be that night, unlike Tinder. Also, Tinder is clearly a hook-up app, and people on Tinder are declaring that they’re aware of the reputation that comes along with that, whether hooking up is their intent or not.

Weepo, on the other hand, doesn’t automatically intimate that you’re on the prowl, although it could certainly be used for that. Although, the heavily flirtatious imagery on Weepo’s homepage could potentially scare away conference delegates who want to use the app solely for developing business relationships.

Promoted as “The first social network for nightlife,” Weepo is now partnering with conferences like Collision, and TechCrunch Disrupt last week, to provide a new level of networking capability beyond the average event app. Weepo founder Roy Lugasi said he has over 30,000 users to date, and over 1,000 signed up in New Orleans during Collision.

“The app helps you find the right party that night before it begins,” he told Skift. “We can tell you what’s going on, who’s going where, and actually give you the ability to meet with those people that night. There’s no other solution in the market like this.”

Presently, Lugasi is focused on driving exposure and adoption to build the Weepo community in more cities in the U.S and abroad. Eventually, he plans to provide user behavior data to both conference organizers and venue owners for a fee, as well as sponsorship opportunities for brands associated with the events.


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Tags: gay travel, san francisco

Photo credit: The "Sequence" sculpture inside the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion. SFMOMA

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