Gezt.io Press Release and Interview With Bulan Eriksson
We recently chatted with Lars-Börje “Bulan” Eriksson, the CEO of Gezt.io, the platform that compiles tourist data for the travel and tourism industry. For example, if a tourist visits a city, they’re going to leave a trail of data as they check in on Facebook, book hotel rooms, Google restaurants and fun local activities… But since each institution only has a small facet of that data, it makes it difficult for tourism to develop as a whole. Thus, Eriksson conceived of Gezt.io, a service with two platforms: one, a free app that tourists can use to access information about destinations and events, which uses notifications to communicate with them. And the other a platform for businesses to access aggregated data.
In our tete-a-tete, we talked about the inspiration behind founding Gezt.io, his innovative ideas on how to use OpenBack’s dynamic, real-time push notifications to improve tourists’ holiday experience, and even his background as an Olympic medal-winning skier. Take a look below to see the fascinating story behind the evolution of Gezt.io, and their future plans for using push notifications to maximize user engagement with their app.
How a Life-Long Love of Skiing Leads to the Creation of Gezt.io
Growing up in Sweden, Eriksson was immersed in skiing culture at a very young age. His mother was an Olympic champion in downhill skiing, and Eriksson grew up idolizing Ingemar Stenmark, an Alpine ski racer who won 89 World Cups in his lifetime. As an adult Eriksson won an Olympic bronze medal in the Super-G event in Calgary 1988. That was the very same year that the legendary Stenmark won his 89th and final World Cup, and for Eriksson to have won his first world cup victory is still a very poignant memory for him.
Unfortunately, when he was 24 Eriksson broke his leg and injured his knee, ending his skiing career. So instead, he became an entrepreneur. Harnessing his love of skiing, he founded a company that specialized in skiing products. He later became the CEO of a destination marketing and management organization for his hometown of Åre, a skiing resort town.
As CEO of the tourism organization for Åre, he oversaw the implementation of the mobile app for the Alpine skiing world championships. He became frustrated with some of the app’s UX shortcomings. Tourists visiting Åre were finding it difficult finding information about the town – where to stay, how to book restaurants, how to find cultural activities in the area, etc. For example, Eriksson stated that dogsledding is a traditional activity in Åre. But it can be difficult for visitors to join dogsledding expeditions, as the companies generally don’t have websites and instead do all their business by word of mouth.
Eriksson wanted to create a digital platform that aggregated all this travel and tourism data, so that it can be easily accessed by anyone who would benefit from it. This means both tourists looking to enjoy the town, as well as businesses in the tourism industry who could use data.
What Is Gezt.io?
Getz.io is Eriksson’s solution to these problems. It’s an app that aggregates useful tourism data, as well as provides easy access to online booking services for visitors looking for fun, local experiences. So on one level it benefits tourists by taking the time-consuming research out of the equation. But it also benefits local businesses in the tourism industry by providing them more complete information about who their customers are.
The prototype of Gezt.io’s aggregated data platform came about as a result of a meeting with researchers from the European Tourism Research Institute. Together they collated an enormous amount of tourist data, in a project that lasted from 2008-2013. Using this data, they were then able to develop a map of tourist behaviors and needs. The Gezt.io app then sells, advertises, and communicates on the frontend, while collecting tourists’ data; on the backend. It analyzes that data and gives the industry new knowledge on who those tourists are, which can then be used for improved marketing and product development.
Ultimately, this business intelligence platform created an entirely new, holistic perspective for tourist companies to analyze customer data. Rather than be rivals, they can collaborate with each other. (For example, hotels can partner with restaurants, and so on.) The potential this has for streamlining the tourism industry across Europe is clear.
Gezt.io and OpenBack: Innovative Use Cases for Push Notifications
Gezt.io relies on leveraging user data, so they are a clear match for using OpenBack to send personalized, real-time push notifications to tourists using their app. Plus, Erikkson came up with new and creative ways of using push technology to provide users better, more streamlined experiences during their travels.
Since implementing the OpenBack SDK, Gezt.io have used push notifications to drive user engagement and retention. For example, when there was a prize-giving ceremony in the center of Åre, they not only used notifications to disperse information, but to drive users back into the app find more specific directions on how to get to the event. The app also provides real-time information on events and transportation.
OpenBack’s ability to send notifications at a pinpointed time was also useful in communicating with tourists in the city center. They receive timed notifications offering them cultural information, tips on what restaurants might cater to their preferences, and deep links directing them to the in-app table-booking function. For tourists arriving in Åre by car, once they’re 5 kilometers away from the city center, they receive notifications guiding them to a map built into the app that directs them to parking places.
Gezt.io Notifications for Biathlon Ski World Championships and Medieval Week
In addition to entire cities, Gezt.io also deploys notifications for once-off tourist events. For example, they managed the Biathlon Ski World Championship in 2019. And Gezt.io’s imaginative use of push notifications allowed them to solve one of the most frustrating problems associated with festivals: long queues. They implemented an ordering service for the food and beer tent, by which attendees could order food and drinks through the app. They would receive a push notification when their order was ready to pick up. This method allowed them to go from 5 massive queues and 30-minute wait times to virtually zero wait time.
Another challenge Gezt.io came up against in the past year has been their managing of the local event Medieval Week, in Strandvaten, Sweden. Normally a large festival celebrating the region’s medieval heritage with food, handicrafts, people in costumes, etc. However, the event was entirely digital this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with Gezt.io organizing advertising, at-home purchases, and booking tickets for livestreamed events, Medieval Week won the region’s annual grand tourism prize, and they have high hopes for 2021.
What’s Next for Gezt.io?
Eriksson admitted that COVID-19 has completely changed the tourism industry. However, he has never been one to be disheartened by a challenge. In fact, with digitization becoming a necessity for companies like never before, it’s driving customer behavior in new and interesting ways. This could provide new opportunities for the Gezt.io platform to grow, analyze customer data, and communicate across the industry.
We have already seen how Gezt.io succeeded in reducing crowded queues in food tents, which could come in very useful for social distancing measures. Ultimately, Eriksson wants to contribute to developing sustainable destinations in tourism. Especially, he would like to help grow and optimize the industry for societies where tourism is key. And he foresees a day when Gezt.io becomes one of the go-to tools users access when they’re researching destination, up there with Booking.com and TripAdvisor.
If you’re interested in learning more use cases for driving customer engagement and retention with push notifications, get in touch with one of the industry experts at OpenBack.
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