How do you travel? And what are you traveling for? Our first Tablet Plus member spotlight falls on Joah Spearman, an Austin-based startup CEO who’s keen to talk about his travel habits, his Plus membership, and the state of the travel-booking business.
Joah, what does Localeur do?
Localeur is a startup, we’re based here in Austin, and our mission is to help people experience local wherever they go. A lot of different companies try to serve up local content or local recommendations or reviews. You have Yelp, you have Foursquare, you have Tripadvisor, and I think with all those there’s a lack of authenticity, there’s a lack of credibility. We fundamentally believe that the people you can trust, when it comes to recommendations about where to eat, where to drink, are the locals. So I’m constantly traveling and meeting up with locals in all these different cities, and leading from the front in terms of building this community one person, one local, one interaction at a time.
So for you, business travel isn’t about airport hotels and convention centers.
No, it’s definitely not. And I would argue that for millennials in general, for this generation you have a very independent group of people. When you see millennials doing business travel, they’re not trying to stay in the airport hotel. They’re trying to figure out: what’s the hotel allowance? Okay, then I’m going to stay in an Airbnb near my friends’ place, or I’m going to stay in a cool boutique hotel in SoHo in New York instead of staying out by LaGuardia. People are trying to have more unique experiences and feel like they’re traveling for fun, even if it is 80% of it is for business.
You mention Airbnb — what is it that swings the decision for you between an apartment and a hotel? Because everybody does both.
New York is a perfect example. I kind of have a rule that I don’t stay in Airbnbs in New York anymore. New York is, in the United States at least, probably the most complicated city to try and experience as a traveler. The last thing I want to do is have to worry about text-messaging some Airbnb host because the key isn’t quite working, you’ve got to lift the door a certain way, and all these things that happen when you go into someone’s apartment. And a hotel just offers a lot more simplicity of experience.
So if that elevated and enhanced experience is what you like about hotels, then that sort of explains why you’re a Tablet Plus member.
Oh, yeah. For me, for how much I travel, it just makes sense. Because it’s not expensive, and then let’s say eight times a year I get a free upgrade. That’s worth it. It makes sense, because maybe you’ve already stretched your budget to justify a hotel. I think I would compare getting a room upgrade to getting a premium seat on a plane. And it just kicks it up a notch in terms of the value that you attach to that brand.
It can make all the difference. Especially in a new hotel where they’re not selling the suites yet, or something.
I use Hotel Tonight a lot. I use it all. And I don’t know if this is a fact, but I will say that someone at the desk, they do treat you differently if you’re a Tablet customer versus someone using Hotel Tonight. Tablet’s brand has attached itself to quality and loyalty. And I think hotels value those tendencies in the customer. I think for the most part, if I’m planning a trip, especially for leisure purposes, I want a hotel that respects me as a customer completely, and if anything treats me even better than normal.
What’s your favorite Tablet hotel?
I love love the Nolitan! Perfect location, friendly service, and where I would get an apartment if I lived in NYC.
Why do you travel?
Well, I’m the CEO and co-founder of a tech startup, and my chief job over the last few years has been fundraising. So my number one travel reason for the last couple years has been to fundraise. Primarily business travel, to cities like San Francisco and L.A. and New York, where a lot of technology investors are. After that? I travel a lot for fun. I’m a big baseball fan, I’ve been to all but four major-league baseball stadiums. In the summers I try to go and see four, five, six different games, different stadiums.
Do you travel light?
I have to be going somewhere for seven days, at least, to check a bag. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie with George Clooney, Up In the Air? I travel like George Clooney in that movie. The way that his goal is to get through security as quick as he can, and he’s looking at what kinds of shoes people are wearing. If you have laced-up shoes and you’re at the airport, I’m not going to be near you. I live very close to the Austin airport, actually, and I time myself. From my door to my gate, I think recently I did it in like twenty-two minutes.
Do you dress up to fly, or dress down for comfort?
I try to dress down a bit, shoes I can slip on, a hat so I’m not worried about my hair, and pants I don’t need a belt for. I’ll usually wear my glasses for flights too then swap in contacts later to rest my eyes.
And if you had to make one recommendation for Tablet travelers in Austin, as chief Localeur, what would it be?
Tablet travelers have great taste for food and sophistication in their hotels I’m sure, but in Austin it’s nice to take a break and get a little dirty over lunch or dinner. You can’t wait in the long morning lines at Franklin BBQ, but instead I’d recommend you go to La Barbecue’s trailer and get messy eating ribs there.
Tell us how you travel and our next feature could be about you.