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Pain Points Be Gone – We Chat to Tourism Radio’s Mark Allewell

Innovative, entertaining location-based radio station acts as audio guide for independent tourists.

Monique Verduyn

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Mark Allewell was chatting to a friend at the V&A Waterfront when he heard about a tourist who was taken to Mouille Point and told that he was in fact at Cape Point. The gaffe led him to launch Tourism Radio.

“As a qualified tour guide, I was astonished at the misinformation out there,” says Allewell.

“That was in 2004, and there was no location-based anything available. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something that could be put in a car. I couldn’t sleep for months, but then I met a professor of engineering at UCT and we got talking. It took us a couple of years, but we did it.”

Designed for self-drive tourists, Tourism Radio broadcasts information about the area that you’re driving through, making sure that you don’t miss any of the stunning sights that South Africa has to offer.

It uses a small GPS device, available from several car rental companies, and gives the listeners information, history and interesting anecdotes about the immediate surroundings.

More than 4 300 of the devices are rented out every day. The business is monetised through location-based advertising. With the evolution of the smartphone, the company has also developed Android and iPhone apps, but has succeeded in cornering the market for in-car devices.

Allewell has secured lucrative contracts in Australia and New Zealand, and clinched a deal with Renault in Europe that will see the devices installed in new vehicles.

“We have also started to look at Google Glass, which will be a game-changer for travellers.”

Commenting on the local tech scene, Allewell says there are many top-notch developers and entrepreneurs out there, but few great ideas.

“We need to focus more on developing innovative technology, rather than copying what works overseas. It’s rare to come across a local technology business that has expanded all over the world. We got it right by being truly unique.”

Top tip

Find an industry that you love, and look for creative solutions that involve business and technology. Develop a product that is distinctive and addresses market needs, and you’ll have a winner on your hands.

The big idea

The best businesses find local solutions to local problems. It’s all about unique solutions.

Vital Stats

[box style=”gray,info” ]Meet the King of Denim[/box]

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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