By Natalie Burg
There’s never been a better time to be a niche traveler… or a creative app developer who can tap into those local markets. In the past, a savvy travel agent or a local connection were the only ways to assemble a travel experience that satisfied the needs of travelers with specific interests.
Today, the power is in everyone’s pocket. The proliferation of location-specific mobile apps means that anyone with specific local interests has a personal tour guide only a few clicks away. From wineries to fine art, these apps are allowing travelers to connect with destinations in a whole new way and allowing app developers to build successful businesses on local charm.
I’m a Beer Hound is one such success story. This app offers microbrew aficionados something no guidebook or review site like Yelp ever could: a local expert with all the goods on every brewery in the state.
“I started the I’m a Beer Hound website about three years ago, and it’s morphed into a Michigan beer news site,” said craft beer connoisseur Paul Starr. This change in the app’s focus was due to a very active and very Michigan-centric user base.
“In developing the app, the main thing was to have stuff people wanted to use on it,” said Starr. “It couldn’t be a one-trick pony; it had to have several things on there to entice people.”
I’m a Beer Hound launched in January of 2013 with a focus on Starr’s growing pool of local beer lovers. With his own years of brewery knowledge paired with content created by his users, the app quickly became a virtual local brewery tour guide, packed with all one could ever want to know about every Michigan brewery.
The app is much more than a simple list. While its comprehensive directory of 91 breweries and beer-focused venues around Michigan is frequently updated and growing fast, the real power of I’m a Beer Hound is its knowledgeable community of local beer lovers who stock the app with in-depth reviews, local beer news, and upcoming brewery events. This user-generated content assembled by local I’m a Beer Hound writers all over the state makes the app much more than just a map or review tool.
“There are other apps out there to find your closest brewery, but people come to [I’m a Beer Hound] for the content,” said Starr, “and that’s what gets people coming back.”
These local voices make travelers’ experiences more authentic, as does the app’s companion membership card, which allows visitors to get VIP discounts at many of breweries around the state.
Niche travelers love to dig deep into local markets. The holy grail of these endeavors is to end up somewhere totally unexpected and to experience something truly special. Even Starr, already a Michigander and beer expert, says he has reaped this same reward through the app.
“Through doing I’m a Beer Hound, I’ve gone into places I would never have gone to,” he said. “I would never have gone to a small city like Greenbush or given a brewery in Frankenmuth a chance. A lot of people just like traveling in Michigan and checking these places out, and it’s all [in the app].”
I’m a Beer Hound is hardly one of a kind. Scores of these hyper-local, niche apps are changing the way the world travels. If the great outdoors is your thing, the Chimani Glacier National Park app includes maps, audio tours, news, and even the best locations in the park for sunsets and sunrises. For thrill-seeking globetrotters, The Roller Coaster Guide can help plot a very niche trip across any country in the world, one roller coaster at a time. And for shopaholics, Google’s Field Trip app has teamed up with the retail guide Shopikon to ?highlight unique, independent shops in New York and San Francisco.
By focusing on specific interests and markets and leveraging the knowledge of local experts and amateurs alike, these niche travel apps offer travelers from anywhere to get the most out of everywhere.
A former downtown development professional, Natalie Burg is a freelancer who writes about growth, entrepreneurialism and innovation.