iPad 'tour guides' for visitors to S'pore

SINGAPORE - When Australian couple Warren and Monica Gray were in Singapore last week, they used a "tour guide" - in the form of an iPad loaded with apps offering help to maximise the holiday experience.

The rental business, called TouristPads, was launched in July and helps those on the go to find information more easily via iPads which are 3G-enabled.

The idea came to co-founder Joshua Wong during a trip to Europe last year when he had difficulty finding his way to an opera performance in Vienna.

He founded the business together with his brother, Caleb, 25, with an initial investment of about $8,000, which came from their savings.

There are at least three other tablet-rental services here but they said TouristPads is the first to target primarily tourists.

The business is modelled on a similar service offered in Madrid. For a daily fee, $30 initially and $20 from the third day, visitors can use an iPad loaded with more than 70 apps.

They connect to navigation sites such as gothere.sg, food portals such as HungryGoWhere and social-media platforms such as Facebook. Video-chat app FaceTime is also available.

Searches can be made while on the move, providing a quick, simple experience for tourists, said Mr Wong, 27, who has a double degree in business management and science (economics) from Singapore Management University.

In its four months of operation, on average, more than a quarter of its double-digit tablet inventory has been loaned out at any given time, and more than 40 clients have made rentals. They include organisations like Fly Entertainment and the National University of Singapore.

"Even if a tourist has done thorough research and planned every last detail of his trip, executing the plan and actually getting from one place to another is not necessarily intuitive," said Mr Wong.

"We want to simplify the tourist experience by putting all the useful apps in one device for them, while allowing them to use these apps without blowing a hole in their wallets."

Tourists can access the Internet with, say, their smartphones but could incur hefty roaming fees.

They can buy a prepaid SIM card but have to go through the additional step of providing their passport and personal details.

The company offers a free personal delivery and pick-up service, usually at the hotel where the tourist is staying. Clients must indicate on an online form how many tablets they need, the dates required, and the time and place for delivery.

Upon delivery of the device, the booking information is checked against personal details found on passports and flight details. A picture is also taken of the passport.

Said Mrs Gray, 59, who received her iPad from Mr Wong at the Swissotel Stamford hotel last Wednesday: "The service has been very punctual and hassle-free, and it is good to have all this technology on hand because it makes everything so much easier."

The Wong brothers expect to break even by early next year but planning for expansion will be a challenge due to constraints in funding and fluctuating demand for tablet rentals.

But Mr Caleb Wong, who has a degree in environmental engineering from Nanyang Technological University, said they have already mapped out what they could do, such as hiring a delivery man and buying Samsung tablets to reach out to Android users.


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