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How To Turn Business Travel Into A Cultural Experience

Social curation tools are helping hotel guests to network, share, and discover the best of the city on the go.

PSFK Labs
PSFK Labs on February 13, 2014. @psfk

PSFK has partnered with real-estate crowdfunding company Prodigy Network to crowdsource the designs for their most recent project 17Johnan innovative hotel in the heart of New York City’s Financial District. This series of articles provides inspiration for readers wishing to be a part of the project and join the crowd in designing the first Cotel.

Lack of time presents a familiar challenge to the modern business traveler looking to maximize the experiences offered by a new city, alongside the demands of work and meetings. The opportunity to grab a coffee with a social connection or soak up the inspiration of an art exhibition could be the difference between a so-so trip and an amazing one. To better accommodate these needs, a range of digital services are helping travelers connect with the people, services and experiences that are most relevant to them. While some of these tools are still in the early stages of adoption, they are empowering adventurous guests with the foresight of a local mixed with serendipitous discovery.

In an effort to facilitate more like-minded conversations amongst perfect strangers, a number of mobile and social technologies are helping uncover the loose connections that exist between people. One example of these services is IMGuest.com, a niche social network designed for travelers that matches up guest staying at the same hotel who have similar interests. Users can create a profile and after checking-in, report the purpose of their trip, indicate who they would like to meet and browse other guests, filtering by age, gender, country, activities and interest. When they come across someone with whom they’d like to speak, they can send an email directly to that person to set-up a face-to-face meeting. Whether these interactions lead to a valuable business partnership or just a recommendation for a restaurant to visit, these temporary relationships can add a new layer of possibility to any trip.

Travel presents a unique opportunity for people to break free of their daily routine and seek out entirely new experiences. However, with limited time and a lack of insider insight into a new locale, it can be hard to instantly tap the liveliest spots. Now is a mobile application that crowdsources activities from Instagram photographs to show exciting entertainment options nearby. Events show up on a user’s Now feed with the most popular — based on likes, number of pictures uploaded, and shares — appearing at the top. Photos can be organized around specific categories like food, art, party, outdoors, and concerts with a focus on helping people find fun things to do in the moment.

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For travelers looking for a more curated point of view on the best a city has to offer, there are few things better than a recommendation from a local, which is the aim of Valet.com. Its members receive local ideas for shopping, dining, arts and entertainment and featured city guides from a handpicked network of tastemakers around local attractions, hotels and dining. The site boasts information from local artists, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople that wouldn’t necessarily be shared share publicly, creating a feeling of being in the know, while allowing members to choose whose advice they decide to tap into.

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Also, while every traveler would likely welcome extra time for enjoyment and relaxation during their trips, sometimes efficiency and convenience are more pressing needs. The mobile phone can now act as that conduit, expediting transactions like the check-in/out process and connecting guests with the various service and amenities offered by a hotel. American Airlines has already built a dedicated mobile app that sends boarding passes straight to their passengers’ phones, enabling travelers to skip customer service or the ticketing booth on the way to their flights. For seamless access to a room, the app Sharekey uses NFC to open a digital door lock, allowing users to simply hold their phone close for entry. Meanwhile, apps like Coaster allow consumers to place orders and pay for their drinks without ever having to muscle their way to the bar. Taken in sum, these applications enable guests to streamline virtually every interaction while they’re at the hotel.

As we think about time as a point of emphasis for the modern business traveler, we’re struck by the tension that exists between experience versus efficiency. By providing a combination of self-service digital solutions alongside networking and curation tools, hotels can help their guests save precious moments during their trips that can be better spent relaxing, taking in the sights and creating a truly memorable stay.

Contributed by Tim Ryan.

These challenges to an efficient yet enriching travel experience should provide inspiration for design teams looking to participate in the competition to create the first Cotel in New York City.

Prodigy Network is known as a pioneer in crowdfunding for real estate. In 2009—after more than 29 projects—Prodigy Network developed an innovative investment  model for crowdfunding in real estate, becoming the world’s leading platform in the field. By doing so, Prodigy introduced a way of democratizing investment opportunities for large-scale projects. Prodigy Network believes that community and transparency are essential to success in real estate.

17John Cotel by Prodigy Network

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