Tour guides for the smartphone generation

In six weeks Tourism Radio’s apps for campervan operators like Maui, Britz and Motorhome Republic have been downloaded 4500 times. It’s a modest starting point, but the company has high hopes for taking a slice out of New Zealand’s $15 billion tourism economy using smartphones.

Based out of Spain, Tourism Radio launched in New Zealand in 2008 and now has five staff. The company’s original product is a GPS radio unit for rental vehicles which provides audio tours for over 1200 different locations.

Intertwined with information about local history and scenery are paid recommendations for different tourist attractions and services. These units are now in 85 percent of commercial caravans in New Zealand and Tourism Radio says it has around 400 businesses advertising through it.

Managing director Hayden Braddock says it’s a natural expansion to take the paid recommendations and build it into an app experience.

“Tourism operators are more and more seeing customers turn up with iPads and smartphones looking for information about the area. We’re putting ourselves in a position to take advantage of that,” he says.

So far the company has built 10 apps for Android and iOS, six of which are available for free in their respective app stores with four more due for release later this year. The content inside the apps are largely similar, although some operators do opt for unique content.

In return for freely promoting the app to customers, the rental operators get a branded tour guide app for a price cheaper than building a bespoke system and a commission from Tourism Radio on the ads sold through the app. Braddock wouldn’t say how much money was being exchanged.

In the future there’s potential to build more e-commerce elements directly into the app so customers can make recommended purchases directly from their smartphones. Braddock says at this early stage it’s important to keep the apps simple and unobtrusive.

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