iPhone a must-bring for the ‘flashpacker’

27 Mar 2008

There’s a new kind of backpacker in town – the flashpacker. They are tech-savvy, most likely on a career break and love to bring the latest gadgets such as the iPhone with them when they go globetrotting.

Irish-based travel firm Hostelworld.com is catering to this growing trend by launching an iPhone-specific site, in addition to its mobile booking site which came on the scene in July 2007.

Hostelworld’s chief marketing officer, Niamh Ni Mhir, said: “You would think backpackers wouldn’t be the type of people to travel around with iPhones but there does seem to be a trend towards people taking career breaks and going backpacking after having worked for a few years and accumulated a large amount of technology.

“One of the things we have seen is that a lot of hostels seem to be providing free Wi-Fi now. Whereas previously you would have seen backpackers sitting down at internet terminals, now they have their own laptops.”

Ni Mhir said Hostelworld was surprised by the take-up of their mobile site but that it appears to be used by existing customers as part of the booking process, where users can adds reviews via their mobile and will receive SMS confirmation from each booking so they can review the map, directions and details all through their handset.

“For the iPhone site, we have focused on the booking and review capability. Additional content like the social networking aspect is not available on the iPhone application because, for the screen size, the primary goal is to be able to clearly review the pricing and ratings.

“What people want to do when they’re on the road is the basics of reviewing and booking: they don’t want too much information on their handset while on the move.”

Ni Mhir told siliconrepublic.com that while the primary goal was to get Hostelworld’s iPhone site up and running in advance of the high season for backpackers, the next plan would definitely be to get Boo.com iPhone-ready.

This investment in the mobile web is justified, said Ni Mhir, as a growing segment of Hostelworld’s customer base is in Asia with customers there appearing to do most things on their phone. Customer feedback also helped the travel site decide to go in this direction.

By Marie Boran