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Viator released a tours and activities apps for the iPhone and iPad this week, as the company aims to tap into the growing mobile commerce market. 

The iPhone app allows users to search for activities wherever they are and book them through the phone, while the iPad version seems to be aimed more at the armchair user. 

I've been trying the app out...

The iPhone app 

The mobile app will detect you current location, unless you want to specify an alternative destination, and then you can look at what's on today, top attractions in the area, as well as special offers. 

Things to do are listed, along with prices and average user review scores:

Activities on offer can also be viewed on a map, so that people can find something to so within their immediate area: 

The listings provide some detailed information on the various activities on offer through the app, with photos, detailed descriptions, and a good range of reviews (there are more than 260,000 reviews and user photos on there) from other users. 

For the tourist in London for a day or two, this could be very useful to help them decide what to do. 

The fact that activities can be booked through the app makes it more useful, both for the tourist looking for something to do at short notice, and for the venue or tour operator looking to sell any remaining tickets. 

The checkout process has been optimised for mobile, and as such, completing a booking is as smooth as it is possible to make it. 

The IPad app

Viator's iPad app takes a different approach to the iPhone version, and seems to be targeting the armchair browser rather than people on the move. 

The 'homepage' uses Google Maps to allow users to browse through destinations, looking for ideas: 

The interface is confusing though, as it's unclear what action users need to take to find activities. For example, having used the iPhone app, I expected to be able to zoom into the London area, and find lots of suggested activities. 

However, all you can do is click on a city to view details of tours and activities on offer. While the globe interface looks good, an alternative of searching or scrolling through a list of destinations would be more usable. 

Unlike the iPhone app, to make a booking on the tablet version, you need to leave the app and head to the main website, which may have people wondering what the point of the iPad app is, since the main website works well on the iPad. 

Conclusion

The iPad app was a bit of a disappointment, with a relatively clunky interface and limited functionality, but the iPhone version is very promising. 

The user experience on the iPhone app is excellent, it easily detects people's locations and quickly serves up results. Information on activities is clearly presented, and the payment process is as good as any that on any other mobile app. 

According to findings from a PhoCusWright 'Activities, Attractions, Events and Tours' study, two out of three travellers with mobile devices say they are likely to use their mobile device to research (64%) and purchase (63%) activities in the future. 

The location element makes it a potentially valuable resource for tourists, while it may also become a very useful channel for theatres and other venues to shift unsold tickets at the last minute. 

Graham Charlton

Published 19 May, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (1)

Jennie Wright

Jennie Wright, Marketing Manager at Syndicut

I've not downloaded the app yet so maybe this is already in there... I'd love to have access to real time information of local events that are time specific i.e. food festivals, farmers markets, comedy nights, etc. I'm always searching for this type of information when taking holidays and even on the weekend. It's a great way of really getting involved with the local culture as well as visiting the more obvious tourist attractions.

over 5 years ago

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