Mark Allewell’s GPS Tourism Radio, Travel Technology Provides ‘Vetted Information’
Travelers needing unfettered access to information basics in a new and unfamiliar city — or country — can depend on forward thinking ideas that have sprung from the mind of Mark Allewell of Cape Town, South Africa.
Allewell founded TourismRadio, a GPS-based radio station, in 2005.
“We fit it into hired cars and it tracks the movements of where the tourists are,” Allewell said. “Then it plays information about the area they’re driving through.”
Through GPS, the station finds points of interest near the location in which the car is driving. The service then connects the driver with audio clips describing useful information about area attractions. Allewell said he came up with the idea when he was sitting in a restaurant with a friend.
“We were talking about tour guides giving the wrong information to tourists,” he said. “We looked at different ways of giving them tourist information as they drove around, which would be quality information. Vetted information. And all the tourists would get the same information.”
Allewell said one of the strengths of the company is that the information disseminated over Tourism Radio is authentic and indigenous.
“It’s like having 10 locals in the back of your car, talking about the area you’re traveling through,” he said. “Our biggest asset is our creativity and our energy.”
Tourism Radio’s success was noticed by international venture capitalists, who bought the company in 2007.
“They came over to South Africa to see us and offered us a bunch of cash,” he said. “That put some things in place so we could expand.”
Tourism Radio now has extended its reach from South Africa to Namibia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Spain, and Ireland. Its success has also allowed Allewell to take part in the launch of another travel-related startup called Hummba, an application that lets users download free audio guides to their GPS-enabled phones. Then there is Google Glass, a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display, for which Allewell hopes to integrate location-based technology and travel content, allowing a user to receive more information about a particular area while traveling.
“We believe that Glass will set the precedent for augmented reality platforms of the near future,” he said. “With eight years of travel technology experience behind us, Tourism Radio has proven itself able to adapt to new technologies, and Glass is the next evolutionary step from the mobile smartphone.”