Gowalla, the geo-location competitor to Foursquare, is going to Disney World. As part of a new deal announced today, Gowalla will provide its unique "check-in" service to all of Disney’s U.S. parks and resorts—and tens of millions of annual visitors. It’s a major get for the Austin, Texas-based startup, and a model it hopes to scale as a way to differentiate itself from competitors such as Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Google Hotpot.
Disney’s 2011 marketing theme is about capturing and sharing memories, and when resort-goers download the Gowalla app they’ll gain access to more than 100 attractions for check-ins, a slew of stamps and pins for rides ("Tower of Terror" badge, anyone?), and a Disney-curated list of itineraries called featured trips.
"It’s the largest, comprehensive branded experience that’s ever been created on a location-based service," boasts Andy Ellwood, Gowalla's business development director.
It’s also a different direction than where other geo-location services are heading. While Foursquare and Facebook Places are focusing more and more on loyalty programs and daily deals, Gowalla is trying to make a name for itself—and grow its userbase beyond 600,000—through real-time, vacation-based experiences.
"Facebook Places and Foursquare are great places for letting you know where you are, but what we’re excited about at Gowalla is that it’s not just about letting people know where I am," Elwood says. "It’s about showing people the experiences that I’m having."