As a frequent business traveler, Sam Makaryan became well acquainted with the purgatory of the airport layover. But instead of bemoaning the inconvenience and lost time, he became proactive by researching the cities where he’d find himself cooling his heels between flights to find a tour or attraction, an exceptional restaurant or simply a hotel where he could nap for a few hours.
“I wanted to do something memorable during the layovers,” says Makaryan, CEO and co-founder of Smart Layover, a cross platform mobile app – iOS, Android and Blackberry – and online booking system that promises travelers a “layover experience you’ll never forget.”
Smart Layover makes it easy to plan quick between-flight getaways for busy travelers. Through the Smart Layover app, which launched June 4, travelers can book day-use hotel rooms near the airport at reduced rates, plan sightseeing tours or locate renowned local eateries.
The app gives travelers opportunities for discounts at restaurants and shops within an airport. In addition, Smart Layover has partnered with Groupon to offer local deals on food, services, products, museums and tours. And to make sure a traveler is up-to-the-minute on flight information, the mobile app also has a flight tracker that gives push notifications about gate changes and delays.
“There are 5 billion airline passengers a year and almost half of them have a layover, so Smart Layover could grow to be something really big,” says Makaryan, whose company has contracted with Amadeus North America for hotel source data.
Smart Layover gives hotels near airports an opportunity to generate more revenue by selling rooms that normally would be unoccupied. Hotels typically have only 50 to 55 percent occupancy year-round, Makaryan says. By offering day-use rooms at special rates to Smart Layover users, hotels can boost occupancy rates and profits.
Makaryan says Smart Layover also means good things for airlines. Planning fun activities such as trips to nearby art museums, dining at specialty restaurants, tours of historic sites and boutique shopping during layovers can make passengers more amenable to scheduling indirect flights.
“If an airline has a flight that’s hard to sell, Smart Layover might make it easier because travelers will know they have something to do between flights,” he explains. This could be a win-win for travelers and airlines; travelers get the benefit of lower prices for indirect flights while airlines may be able to fill up flights that travelers generally deem less desirable.
In the startup phase, Smart Layover covers only 50-60 airports but will be adding more as the company enters agreements with more hotels for day-use room rates. As that happens, Makaryan says, the company will also increase its menu of between-flight adventures.
“We’re very, very excited and think our idea is going to soar.”
What ideas do you have for making layovers fun?