iPhone in Business

Gap Adventures

“We’re in constant communication with each other. It’s critical for our business model. And sometimes I wonder how we did it without iPhone.”

A global travel company stays unified, with iPhone.

At Gap Adventures, a thriving international tour operator headquartered in Toronto, business is global — literally. And with 1300 tours on 7 continents and 800 staff scattered in 37 countries, communication is mission-critical. Connectivity has to be available at all times, from all places, including a polar expedition ship in Antarctica.

Thanks to iPhone, that’s not a problem. “We have 70 staff living on our polar ship,” says President and Founder Bruce Poon Tip. “And whenever a new employee arrives, we get a photo of them on the ship, introducing them to the people in the offices. So we can meet them, wherever we are. And that’s all done by iPhone.”

A culture of community

The culture at Gap Adventures is passionate and familial: Employees work, travel, and socialize together. To stay in constant contact, they rely on several key iPhone apps: the camera, Tweetie, Beejive, and Skype.

“We’re obsessed with Twitter,” says Director of Marketing Dan Christian. “We’re constantly on our iPhones taking photos and sharing them globally.” For instance, at Gap Adventures’ concept stores in New York, Toronto, Melbourne, Calgary, and Vancouver — where customers can browse, consult, and book trips — Christian uses Twitter to share new merchandising. “If we have a store transformation where we’re changing up branding, it’s simple for us to snap a photo with iPhone and then post it to Twitter,” he says. “So everyone in the field has a chance to see.”

The conversation works the other way, too. Gap Adventures trip leaders — known as Chief Experience Officers — use their iPhones to Tweet real-time photos from the voyage. And because the GPS on iPhone geo-tags photos with their exact location, CEOs don’t have to label as they go.

Then there’s Beejive, an instant messenger app, which keeps business at Gap Adventures moving at a clip. “We’re almost always on instant messenger instead of email,” Christian says. “Beejive allows us to use iPhone to message with anybody on iChat, MSN, or whatever service they happen to use.”

Apps around the world

Naturally, Gap employees are avid travelers. And when they hit the road, they rely on a host of travel apps on iPhone.

With the Air Canada app, Poon Tip can check in to his flight on his way to the airport — and get the boarding pass on iPhone. “I can go through security with just the bar code on my iPhone,” he says. “And the amount of time that that has carved out of my commute to the airport is priceless.”

Gap Adventures culture czar Will Matthews uses an app called BabelShot when faced with a foreign-language sign. “You take a photo of a sign, and tell the app that you want to translate from Spanish to English, for example, and it gives you a decent translation,” he says.

Jeff Russill gets help making international phone calls from an app called Dial Codes. “Say you’re in Kenya and you’re trying to phone Peru. You choose ‘Kenya to Peru’ and then tap your contact. The app takes care of all of the front-end dialing for you.” In the past, Russill would have to take time out to call an operator — but not anymore.

Sleep Cycle, an alarm clock app that tracks the sleeper’s movements throughout the night, is a huge bonus for the one-two punch of jet lag and early meetings. “You put the iPhone by the bed and set the alarm for, let’s say, 7:30,” says Russill. “It will monitor your sleep cycles during that time, and in the half hour lead-up to 7:30, it will wake you when you’re at the lightest level of sleep.”

Poon Tip has found an iPhone app for trips to the tropics: Bug Spray. “I was just traveling with my kids, and they got a few bites we were concerned about,” he says. “So the next night I lay the iPhone on their bed and turned on the Bug Spray app. It emits a high-pitched signal that humans can’t hear, which keeps the bugs away.” The result? “They never got another bite.”

Gap Adventures’ Will Matthews chose iPhone for one main reason: integration. “When I was working as an IT person,” he says, “it was easy to find lots of intermittent help from one program, and then another program, and you switched back and forth. But to find a unified suite of tools that was easy to take with you — that was difficult. With the iPhone, I was able to find everything that I needed at my fingertips, and it fit in my pocket, so it was a no-brainer for me.”

“Thanks to my iPhone, I can instantly be connected to the immediate world around me, no matter where I am.”

Keeping it all together

Of course, while they’re traveling, the Gap Adventures team never stops working. Thanks to apps on iPhone, they don’t have to.

“I use QuickOffice Connect a lot,” says Will Matthews. “It lets me edit any Microsoft Office documents from my iPhone.”

With an app called OmniFocus, Matthews keeps his to-do lists in order. “It lets you set a context,” he says. “And in each context, it automatically ties in to location services. So I can hit the ‘locate’ button, and it’ll pull up the to-do list for the location I’m in.”

Dropbox is a trusted app for syncing files in multiple locations — and accessing them from anywhere. “Dropbox lets me sync files between my home and office Macs,” Matthews says. “And it lets me pull those files up on iPhone. I can take photos or video on iPhone and save it directly to Dropbox, which means that anyone who shares my Dropbox can see those files instantly.”

A lighter load

With so much functionality in iPhone, Bruce Poon Tip has been freed from his laptop on some of his business trips — for the first time in his 20-year career. “I think I’d rather travel without my right arm than without my laptop,” he says. “But with iPhone, I’m doing it every now and then. And it’s such a freeing feeling.”

The result is a much lighter load for a President — and a company — who truly appreciates efficient travel. “The iPhone allows me to do all of my major functions over the course of a day,” Poon Tip says. “All in a hand-held device. It’s incredible.”

Creative review on the fly

iPhone gives Director of Marketing Dan Christian a significant advantage over his previous smartphone: the ability to review and approve marketing collateral on the fly. “Having the wide display on iPhone and being able to view full-color images is very important,” he says. “So I can make quick decisions about print ads, or postcards, or brochure covers. The designers can pass the files over to me via email, and by reviewing them with the zoom on my iPhone, I can keep the process moving.”

Company Info

  • 800 employees
  • Toronto, ON
  • www.gapadventures.com
  • Gap Adventures has five core values: Lead with service, do the right thing, create happiness and community, embrace the bizarre, and change people’s lives.