Article by Emily Branan, video by Lawson Box
Amrit Lamba hasn’t been a New Orleans resident long, but he enjoys helping people experience the city the way he does.
After learning about the new FUHWE app at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, he signed up to become a host, ready to be paired with tourists looking to explore the city beyond tourist attractions.
Lamba, who moved from Seattle two years ago, said his time showing his own visiting friends and family around the city since then was almost like “beta testing” the app. He said he’s seen what his visitors have enjoyed, so he knows it is a good idea.
“I thought if I could show more people around, it would be something that I would enjoy doing,” Lamba said.
FUHWE hosted a launch party on April 14 and the app is set to officially launch this spring. Approved hosts will be paid for their tours after their guests complete a review of them.
The creators of the app came to New Orleans from Grenada, Lamba said.
“They were taken in by the spirit and the hospitality of the city and I think that’s how they came up with the idea,” Lamba said.
He contacted FUHWE and did an interview. He had to submit his “experience,” or what he plans on doing with tourists through the app. He said his Mid-City experience is the first of many he hopes to lead.
Lamba’s experience begins at the Bulldog in Mid-City, a bar that gives away pint glasses on Wednesdays, giving the guest something to take home. The next stop is Twelve Mile Limit, a bar Lamba said ranked as one of nola.com’s best bars in 2014 and that hosts its trivia night on Wednesdays.
Lamba and his guests would then ride the Canal streetcar line to get to the Candlelight Lounge to hear the Treme brass band play.
“Obviously, music is such a major part of the culture here, seeing it in an intimate venue is an experience that a lot of people miss,” Lamba said.
Lamba said that after FUHWE approved the experience, he had to become a licensed tour guide to ensure he would be leading his experiences in a way that conformed to the guidelines of the city.
Lamba said he is eager for this app to encourage tourists to venture outside of the French Quarter on their trips to the city.
He said he believes people who don’t explore beyond the Quarter are missing out on the culture that New Orleans has to offer. Aside from just building tourists’ knowledge of New Orleans, Lamba said he believes this app will also help the rest of the city.
“As people get exposure to Mid-City, to the Bywater, Uptown, they’re going to enjoy what they see and it will build up those areas and it’ll be a destination for more than just what’s already known,” Lamba said.
Jamie Landry, licensed tour guide in New Orleans, said he is not sure that an app-based tour service is the best value for tourists.
He thinks having a licensed tour guide to show visitors around the city is important and agrees it is vital for FUHWE hosts to have this license.
“We have to take a comprehensive test to get the tour guide license that requires a lot of study and a lot of research,” Landry said.
While Landry is not sure about FUHWE, others are eager to try it. Adam and Juniad, researchers in New Orleans for a conference, said they have mostly stayed in the French Quarter, but would be willing to try FUHWE on their next trip to the city.
“I would prefer that rather than this whole tour thing because local people know more about the city and they will show the real deal. The tour guide is all fancy stuff that doesn’t show much of the culture,” Juniad said.
Juniad said he had friends who lived in New Orleans who told him to solely visit Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets because there wasn’t much else to do in the city. “There’s no point in venturing out if you don’t have a reason to do it,” Juniad said.
Juniad said he thinks FUHWE would be fun, and would give him more of an experience of going out with a friend that lives in the city.
Lamba said FUHWE means “for us.”
“It’s all about exploring like a local, where people start to get a feel for the city they may not normally get and experience some of those hidden gem that are all around,” Lamba said.
Emily Branan and Lawson Box are students in the journalism capstone class in the Loyola University School of Mass Communication.