In fact, LobbyFriend emerged out of a genuine desire for more interaction among guests, hotel staff members, and hotels themselves. Jason Ayoub, an ex-Air Canada consultant says he used to get bored during lonely business trips, and would invariably wind up downstairs chatting with the bartender. Which doesn't sound so bad, but obviously that situation depends on the bartender and the bar itself. Now, with the new app, Ayoub can hook up with other business travelers in the same boat.
Here's how it works: LobbyFriend can be downloaded as an app onto your smartphone, or simply opened on a mobile web browser. You then create a profile, similar to Facebook, with a photo, a description of yourself, and basic info like employer, job position, degree and gender. But you can only log onto LobbyFriend once you've checked into a participating hotel. And once you've checked out, your session is immediately wiped out.
Ayoub explains that, right after handing you the room key, the participating hotel will also hand you a postcard with a special PIN on it. Guests use that pin to "enter" the virtual lobby of that particular hotel. Once inside, you can scroll through the hotel's "news feed." This is a stream of guests chatting with each other, requesting local advice, and being notified of special events or promotions going on at the hotel.
We immediately wondered if that PIN would be giving out any personal information about us, but Ayoub says it won't. The only information encoded into your PIN is the name of the hotel and the duration of your stay. Everything else is on your profile, which can contain as little or as much information as you choose.
Aside from meeting other guests and asking people where to find the best local pizza, Ayoub says LobbyFriend basically allows people to keep tabs on their hotel:
"We didn't disregard those people who aren't interested in meeting others. They'll be able to access deals, and there will be city guides for them to read. We know there are lots of people who just want to relax—people who don't even have Facebook and don't want to socialize.
Just because it's a social network, you don't have to socialize. At least there's information in there, so you can keep tabs on the hotel. If you're lost in the city, you can ping the hotel. You're free to do what you want to do, it doesn't cost you anything."
Hm. Well, we like the sound of a deal. Anytime a hotel wants to give us a discounted spa treatment, or a 2-for-1 drink special, we're all ears. As for whether or not we feel the need to connect with other guests, it truly depends on the nature of the stay. Sometimes we're busy working away in our room (hopefully, we pray, on a complimentary wireless connection). And sometimes we're in town to visit friends. But once in a while, yes, we do get bored and wouldn't mind a little company.
Are you ready to hop on the LobbyFriend bandwagon? Is this something you'd try? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!