Foursquare: a valuable concept for all the travel industry players

05 avr. 2010 | Written by Julia

Launched in 2009, Foursquare is a location-based, social networking application. It differentiates from other apps of that kind (Yelp, Loopt, Dismoiou…) by its badges system which brings a playful side.

This entertaining aspect is having an impact on user’s motivation, so that turns the application in an interesting tool to engage customers. Depending of his main field of activities, several usages can be possible and imaginable for a travel industry player:  to broadcast information, to launch a marketing campaign, to guaranty travelers’ security…

Foursquare main features

First, to perceive the potential of this application, we must identify its main features:

* The social aspect: Foursquare apps allow publishing information (position, reviews, badges…) into our social networks (Facebook, Twitter…);

* The geolocation: The user decides by himself to indicate its position by checking in the application.

* Badges: several challenges enable users to win badges. This badges can be exposed to their networks or to people that are visiting the same place as them.

If you wish to get more information on that subject, I advise you to visit this comprehensive article from Diana Freedman.

Foursquare as a new marketing tool

This apps is entirely in the convergence issue of online and offline. The first businesses that made use of Foursquare (mainly bars and restaurants) run it in order to attract new customers or to develop loyalty. For example, they offered drinks or reductions at the first check-in or after a number of visits. Also, if they are more advanced in mobile marketing, some companies can also allow regular customers to win exclusive badges (see Starbuck case).

Thus, Foursquare main advantage is to be able to make very targeting and contextualized marketing actions. Therefore, we can imagine purpose adapted to the tourism industry.

Enriching classic loyalty programs with the Foursquare badges system: so for example, an hotels chain, an airline or a cars rentals company could offer exclusives badges after staying in several hotels, having travelling in certain cities…

In the same order of ideas, they could consider doing very targeted cross-selling like offering badges after testing some services, booking a partner’s product…

For incoming travel agencies and/or offices of tourism, this badges system can enhance the traveler’s experience and enable commercial actions. For example, a check-in in a museum serves to receive reductions to another neighboring place (a nearby bar, a tourist attraction targeting the same public…).

Finally, we can also use it to encourage words of mouth by rewarding customers who have a certain number of Foursquare friends that visited specific places.

Foursquare as a tour guide

This apps can also be used as a touristic guide. On one hand, we can find a lot of information and reviews (from local people or tourists). These are shorts (140 characters) so they are bringing updated and very targeted piece of information.

On the other hand, we can imagine touristic tours organized by a tour-operator, a DMC or a touristic office. Each visitor who complete a tour (this will be controlled with the check-in) will gain a badge (for the pleasure of collecting badges or to get a reward).

Moreover, at each check-in, visitors can write a comment and/or see the information left by predecessors. This adds has double interests: supply updated information and continuously creates new content. This will also provide feedbacks to the organizers.

Such initiative already takes place in Chicago, where Explore Chicago (the official tourism site) proposes 3 thematic tours that enable visitors to unlock badges. We can also notice this interesting initiative from Metro (the free newspaper) in Canada.

Foursquare as a tool to guaranty travelers’ security

Finally, if we remember that Foursquare doesn’t track user (there is no real time localization), but instead use check-in (user chose to inform his position), that let us imagine Foursquare as an interesting alternative to mobile phone tracking.

That would allow travel manager to keep informed about their collaborators’ localization and respect their privacy.


Foursquare concept shows interesting perspectives for the travel industry, as soon as this application will have reached a critic masse of user in the world. But you can already realize the potential the content created with it on FourWhere.

The evolutions of other applications should be watched: Dismoiou (the Francophone), GoWalla (which bring a similar entertaining aspect) and Yelp (the bigger with 1,25 millions of users and since a few the ability of check-in).

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