We are delighted to be able to introduce you to a fabulous new app that is taking the Algarve by storm – it’s the new Explore Algarve app and we can highly recommend it!
We decided to contact the owner and designer of the app, Don McGowan, and in our usual Algarve Blog way; ask him some pertinent questions about himself – and also the app – so here goes with our interview:
Can you tell us a little about yourself first – the person behind the app – where are you from, how long have you been in the Algarve …
Hi. My name is Don and I’ve been living in the Algarve [this time around] for a year and a half. My partner and I lived in Burgau for two years previously but moved back to the UK to have our son. The three of us came back again in March of 2015 after selling the house in Bristol and deciding that the Algarve was most definitely the place we wanted to live and raise our boy.
I’m originally from a small town in Scotland called Kilwinning but left at the age of ten. Due to an air force childhood, I have spent the rest of my life moving around a lot but was in London for 12 years and Bristol for a few too.
So now the three of us, my partner, Ellie and our son, Rory, all live in Burgau permanently and are very happy here.
Good choice Don – we love Burgau, what a lovely place to bring up a family with this view above as your local beach!
What drew you to the Algarve – and what is your favourite thing about living here?
Ellie has been coming to the Algarve since she was a very small girl with her family and her grandfather bought a house in Burgau. Her mum has now been living there for 15 years and so the Algarve has always been an easy holiday for us.
In 2012 we made the decision to move here as Ellie had just finished many years of training as a doctor and had become slightly disillusioned with it. My work as a web and graphic designer meant that I could work from anywhere as long as I had my laptop and an internet connection. So it was an easy decision to make; why stay in grey, expensive London when we could start a new life in the beautiful Algarve?
There are so many things that I love about living in Portugal; the lifestyle, the weather, beaches, the lovely people. It’s really hard to pick a favourite but as I’m not a fan of the cold, I’ll go for the weather in answer to this question!
Can you tell us one ‘secret’ place – restaurant, bar or beach that is your favourite place to escape the crowds in the summer?
Having a two-year-old means that we don’t get out as often as we used to so I’m slightly less clued-up on where to go nowadays. We did find a lovely place whilst out driving the other week which was just stunning and wasn’t too busy: Amoreira beach. I can’t say for sure that it doesn’t get packed in the summer but the beach bar was great with spectacular views out across the beach and to the Atlantic. Beautiful.
Another great choice Don and another of our favourite beaches!
Can you let us know more about your new app ‘Explore Algarve’ please and what made you develop it?
The idea for Explore Algarve came about from a small Algarvian frustration of mine: it can be very difficult to find current information about businesses here. Ellie and I were looking for the number for one of our local Indian restaurants to order a take-out last year. It wasn’t easy. Eventually after many minutes of online searching we found two numbers, which were both wrong! We did eventually find it but it took nearly ten minutes. I thought to myself “there must be an easier way to do this, there must be an app for this” – there wasn’t so I decided to make one.
So now, nearly nine months later, the app is out there and really doing well. We have been approached by EasyJet and Thomas Cook who are both featuring us in their in-flight magazines from August.
We don’t charge our businesses to list in the app. I took a view that I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to sign up so keeping it free is the best way to do it.
Every business listed has its own page with a gallery of images, opening hours, contact information, some general information, links to their social media pages and exact GPS directions to get you there using the phone’s map app. So it’s pretty comprehensive for anyone needing to find something in the Algarve.
And can you give us an idea of the categories and themes that are covered in the app?
Well the idea was to try and cover every business that might be of interest to anyone visiting or living in the Algarve. So we started out with eight categories but have now increased it to twelve giving a full range of listings.
Our categories are: Attractions & Activities | Food & Drink | Golf | Sport, Health & Beauty | Kids | Shopping & Markets | Local Info & Transport | Business & Services | Museums, Art & Culture | Accommodation | Music | What’s On |
So as you can see we really do cover every angle … I hope! In addition to the business listings we have a built in radio player so you can listen to Kiss FM [Algarve]; we have an online, monthly magazine ‘Enjoy The Algarve’ and now we also have your fantastic blog with its own section too. So there’s a lot more to it than just finding a water park or tracking down an email for a nightclub!
We are adding new listings every single day so if it isn’t in there now, then it will be soon.
Are there new categories or themes that you are interested in covering in the future?
Err, yes, probably! I designed it to be scalable and I am constantly coming up with new ideas for it. The What’s On section I only added last week but it now lists hundreds of events across the Algarve every week. I’m very pleased with that one!
I am always open to suggestions too. An early comment on the app from a user was that they loved it but would have liked to see all the golf courses together. So I got cracking and created the dedicated golf category.
I get a bit snow-blind sometimes having spent nine months staring at the same thing. It’s nice when people help out with constructive comments like that.
You are currently flying high (literally!) with your app featured in the Thomas Cook airlines and Easyjet in-flight magazines – where else can we find out about you and can we follow you on Social Media? (links please!)
Yes. As I mentioned earlier they both approached us a few weeks ago with the aim of featuring us in their in-flight magazines. Obviously I didn’t take too long making the decision to say yes! So we have worked with both companies and you should be seeing us on lots of flights to the Algarve [and across the rest of the world too] any day now.
We have lots of channels of information about the app. Our websites I guess are a good place to start. explorealgarve.com has all you need to know about the app and its workings! explorealgarve.com/clients is our Client Portal where any business can sign up to list in the app for free. Both of these are available in English and Portuguese.
Our social media pages are here via these links:
and you can tag us on all of them using @explorealgarve and we’ll respond to you straight away [ish!].
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org too.
How can people purchase and download your app – and how much does it cost?
Really easy. Just go to the Apple App Store or Google Play on your smartphone and search for Explore Algarve. We’re there!
It’s 79p [1€] to buy the app. We wanted it to be at the lowest pricing tier so as not to put people off. Still less than a cup of coffee [in most places] for an awful lot of information
I am getting a lot of requests for further versions of the app too. So I’d like to say that I’m working very hard at the moment getting the original up to scratch but I’ve also begun work on the tablet/iPad and Kindle versions of Explore Algarve too. I hope to have these ready to launch soon.
How can people contact you if they want their business or event to be included in the app?
They can do it all themselves by going to our Client Portal explorealgarve.com/clients and filling out the really quick form or drop me an email with your business info and some images to email@example.com and I’ll upload it to the app.
It’s very straight forward and no catch when I say it’s totally free! People seem to think there are hidden costs somewhere along the line … there aren’t. It’s just totally free.
And what are your hopes for the future of your app?
Well, once we have got through the summer and I’m happy with how things are ticking over then I have already started some pre-design work for our next app, Explore Lisbon.
Explore Algarve will continue to be constantly updated as it is now but during the winter months we will be getting ready to launch Explore Lisbon early next year.
There are more in the pipeline and we’ll see how it goes with the expansion but my plan is to retire once we’ve completed Explore New York!!!
We love the fact that the app covers ‘What’s on’ as well – always a pet peeve of ours that it is always hard to find out what is happening out here!
Quick choice questions:
- Mac or PC? MacBook Pro [but I have a Windows laptop too for testing purposes].
- Starter or dessert? Starter please.
- Early morning or late night? With a two-year-old son and three businesses … both!
- Air con or log fire? Air con.
- Summer or winter? Always summer.
Do you have a role model or someone/ something who has inspired you?
I don’t have any specific roles models as such. I admire lots of amazing people but my inspiration comes from my son. I see him and just want to do everything I possibly can to make his life as good and as happy as it can be.
Is there anything else you would like to let the readers of our blog know about?
Ordinarily I would stick a plug in for my graphic and web design business but I’m a bit overwhelmed with the work on the app at the moment so I won’t mention dmmwebdesign.co.uk [!]
So there you go – the very creative and clever Don – and his fabulous Explore Algarve app! We’re rather thrilled to have been included in the app with our very own link under the delightful heading of the ‘best blog in the Algarve’ – wow thank you! – and we’re alongside our good friends from the ‘Enjoy the Algarve’ magazine too!
So now whether you are on holiday here, have a second-home here or live permanently here in the Algarve – if you want to know what’s happening and where everything is – we think that this is the only app you will need!
We wish Don and the Explore Algarve app every success.