11 November 2016
BEIRUT: At Banque du Liban Accelerate 2016, a conference welcoming 20,000 aspiring and senior techies from around the world, two travel enthusiasts sought to offer a new platform redefining the way we trot around the globe. “We’re looking at travel. We help you plan for a trip, allow you to journal it with our interactive map-based journal, and at the end of that, you can turn it into a physical, tangible product with photo books, posters, anything,” explained Chad Garrett Cribbins, CEO of Firef.ly. “Through the app, we’re essentially trying to strip together your story in a continuous way.”
“There’s no single app like ours,” Shawn Low, editorial director of Firef.ly added. “I suppose you could say that we have a travel guide like Lonely Planet, coupled with the tracking abilities like Strava or Nike Run, and the journaling capabilities of Path and Rove.”
“We think an app that encompasses a larger set of things is more intelligent, smarter. I hate having 13 apps; there should be one that centralizes them,” Cribbins explained.
Funded in March 2015, Firef.ly is still in its nascent years on the market. It recently launched its app for iOS, and is in the midst of surveying demand for Android.
So far, the app fully covers major cities such as Paris, London, New York and Singapore.
Yet, despite its young age, the mobile app has already made its mark among a Middle Eastern crowd.
“We had an article translated in Arabic, and apparently it reached a lot of people. We had a spike in downloads in the region. A lot of downloads in Saudi Arabia, and we had people asking for mapping details in Iran,”Cribbins revealed.
However, bringing its global users to the Middle East region has been a bit of a slower process.
“Though there has been interest in Iran, Beirut is the first Middle Eastern city we have really covered,” Cribbins admits. “We plugged in a few places before we arrived last night at 2 a.m.”
For Lebanon, tourism has been crucial for the country’s economy. Despite a history of political instability within the country and in neighboring states, Lebanon was a significant tourist hub hosting international figures such as Frank Sinatra in pre-Civil War days.
In the recent decade, tourism has both shot up and severely decreased due to regional instability. According to a report released by Bankmed, 2010 witnessed an “upsurge in tourism activity” with an increased contribution to the country’s GDP by 21.7 percent.
But following the onset of Syrian crisis, the numbers of visitors severely plummeted, taking a hit to the country’s industry.
Mobile applications such as Firef.ly represent a new avenue, introducing today’s adventurer to destinations “off the beaten path” as well as more mainstream tourist centers. The algorithm offers suggestions built around the user’s preference.
“We’re trying to get information about you, to help make better suggestions on where to go.” Cribbins told The Daily Star.
“The fun thing with this stuff is you don’t know where it’s going to catch fire. We’ve had some interest in the region, so we were intrigued in coming out here.”
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