March 26, 2020

Taos-area business owner launches COVID-19 resources app

Kendra Chamberlain

Taos Ski Valley

A business owner in the Taos Ski Valley converted a booking app into a COVID-19 resources tool for the community around Taos.

Alyson Hyder, who runs a bed and breakfast in the Taos Ski Valley, told NM Political Report she wanted to put her booking app, called Travel Taos, to good use while the region’s tourism industry has ground to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not cheap, it’s an expensive piece of software. [And] it’s not being used,” Hyder said. “I built it to support my booking business, but when I realized no one’s going to be traveling, I might as well use it.”

Under normal conditions, the app is part of an online booking engine business that Hyder has built, The app was designed to complement the booking engine and be a useful tool for tourists who are visiting the Taos area and the ski valley to get information on food, lodging, and other activities.

“People have a place where they can get last minute specials, dining specials, things like that. That was built as an asset to go with the booking engine,” she said.

But a few days ago, Hyder decided to leverage her technology skills to help the community during the pandemic.

Hyder converted the homepage of the app into a clearing house of information about what resources are available at this time to community members. It includes national, state and local government updates about COVID-19, and available medical services in the area, including where to get tested.

Screenshots of the Travel Taos app.

But perhaps more useful to residents in the area, the app aggregates information about restaurants, grocery store delivery options and things like community donation drop-off and pick-up points.

“There’s so much information, there’s a Facebook page, emails, and everything is getting old or outdated,” Hyder said. “There was not one place for all the information to be pulled together into some sort of easy port.”

Taos-area residents and community groups have been fiercely organizing online and through Facebook, pulling together donations, compiling lists of restaurants and coffee shops that are still offering food, and sharing Google Docs on things like how to sew a DIY face mask, and sharing posts about how to decontaminate packages and groceries before bringing them into the house.

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Hyder is working with two women who started a Facebook page for COVID-19 related information recently.

“They spearheaded this group, and have been getting loads of information. I approached them and said, would you like me to condense all this and put it on the front page of my app. And they were thrilled about it, so they’ve been feeding me information and finding out things.”

“I’ve just added a couple of dentists that are open, a couple of vets that are still open,” she said.

Hyder is also building out a calendar in the app of online offerings from local businesses to help keep boredom at bay during the stay-at-home order. The calendar includes things like online yoga classes being offered by local studios, art workshops, children’s classes and other information sessions.

“There’s tons of online, virtual classes that people are offering, classes for kids, there’s going to be a lot more added to it,” she said. 

Hyder, who in 2016 was the recipient of the New Mexico’s Tourism Professional of the Year award, was able to build out the resources page on the app in a matter of days. Hyder enters most of the information in the app manually. She said she’ll keep updating the information as businesses close or change their operations during the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a full time job. It’s something I will be dedicating time to daily,” Hyder said. “There’s a lot of information on there, everything from hours to menus. We’ve just got to get the word out, and get people using it. I think it’s going to be helpful.”