As a flight attendant, Banff’s Megan Rudneski is always looking for hip local spots to eat or drink in the cities she flies into.
She said Googling it isn’t always helpful. Nor is going to TripAdvisor. This presented an opportunity to create Xpath (pronounced Crosspath). It’s an app that connects travelers with locally-owned restaurants and guided experiences – and with each other.
“It was really challenging for me to find different or unique restaurants when I was only there for a short amount of time,” said Rudneski.
“Having the app available to me over the years would have been so helpful, so that I could feed into the local aspect of the community I was in.”
The app works using your phone’s geolocation. Once in the app, the user pings out and it populates the app with local selections within a one kilometre radius.
First foray into Banff
Rudneski’s has lived in Banff for the past decade. She’s heard tourists talk about how they were so excited to test the local fare.
But, for many, that meant hitting the local chain restaurant they weren’t familiar with.
“I’m like, ‘oh sweet – but they don’t know about the other guys,” Rudneski said.
The big guys have large budgets to market online and reach many of the people headed to Banff. But, Rudneski said they weren’t getting the real feel of the local content available in Banff.
With COVID-19 and its impact on small businesses, Rudneski figured the demand to help connect tourists with local hotspots would be overwhelming. But, she said, Banff’s stayed pretty busy; some business owners have told her they couldn’t keep up with the pace.
That pushed her into Calgary, where she knew businesses were struggling.
“I wanted to promote those little guys and those hidden little gems,” she said.
“I started funnelling my attention to Calgary, where I’ve been getting a lot of people excited because they are super slow. They’re really nervous about having to shut down.”
Uncover the hidden gems
Right now, Rudneski is collecting the businesses on her own. She envisions a point in time, when the app gains steam, that businesses will apply to the site.
They can provide their information, including location and services, and offer some sense of their unique local charm.
“And also, so I can connect with them on a human level,” she said.
“I find that with apps and software, you don’t have that connection piece to really get into creating a community with those businesses.”
Rudneski wants the app to appeal to not only businesses and the tourists they attract, but to locals in cities across Canada and North America who are looking for a different, new haunt.
And reviews for these businesses? No thanks, Rudneski said. She’d rather allow clients to submit their feedback directly to the business via the app. It provides them actionable value in the feedback.
Life on the Trans Canada Highway
Rudneski wants to build the system out following the Trans Canada Highway. She’ll start in Calgary / Banff and move from there.
She wants to hit up all the little towns along the route from Vancouver to Calgary and make that corridor robust with local businesses. Then she wants to spread across Canada to the east.
Rudneski said that going through the Platform Calgary Junction program has taken her back to the very beginning and revisit parts of her business that needed attention. She initially launched the business back in 2018, but it had a slightly different approach.
“It’s a really cool to go back to the beginning and pick things out with a fine-toothed comb and make sure that it’s properly delivered,” she said.
Over the next year, she’s hoping to add 20 to 30 businesses per month. Along with that, she’s looking to attract at least 1,000 users per month.
You can find the current app in the App stores.