$29 app spices up Little India visits

Pay $29 to download an app and you can have a self-guided tour of Little India, with goodies and discounts thrown in.

For that price, you get an interactive map, write-ups, photo galleries, videos and audio commentary that covers the area's history, cultures and trades.

There are other perks, such as a flower garland, a henna tattoo, meal vouchers and even a packet of spices.

The price is reasonable, said the people behind the app, comparing the cost to an organised tour by an agency or a guide, which would be priced at more than $30 per person.

"Instead of paying a lump sum per person, you can do it at your own pace and get back more than what you spend on the app," Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association chairman Rajakumar Chandra said yesterday.

"It is value for money if you are coming in a group or with your family. With tour guides, timings are fixed and more restricted."

Most heritage trail apps - both here and abroad - are free. These include those launched by the National Heritage Board on areas such as Kampong Glam and Balestier, as well as a heritage trail app of Chijmes by Pre 8 Investments. Just a handful cost money, and these usually range between $1.28 and $3.98.

Technology blogger Alfred Siew said apps are usually understood to be free or low cost.

"$29 is more than what you usually expect to pay for a mobile app but, to be fair, you have to see the content and what the user can get out of it," he said.

The app will take visitors through nine stops within the historic district, including the newly conserved Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and spice merchant Thandapani Company.

It will be launched next week as part of this year's Deepavali celebrations, and targets both tourists and locals.

It is fronted by television personality Jamie Yeo and can be downloaded on both the Apple App and Google Play stores.

The aim, said Mr Rajakumar, is to get tourists to spend more time in Little India and explore some of the unknown treasures within the enclave, like traditional Indian gold craftsmen.

That is why the association sunk $5,000 to develop the app and will be spending another $20,000 to market it.

The association also hopes to drum up unique visitorship figures during this festive period from 1.6 million last year to more than two million.

Other activities include a silver chariot procession at the Sri Mariamman Temple and a festival village in Campbell Lane and Hastings Road featuring food, crafts and clothes stalls. Deepavali falls on Oct 22.

Heritage enthusiast Chong Ke Ren, 65, a business consultant, described the app as "innovative" because it gives tourists an option besides hiring a guide.

Owner of Abiraame Jewellers Palaniappan S., 68, agreed. He said the app will help put the area's artisans and various offerings on the map.

"It will help promote the designs, skills and craftsmanship that are located within Little India," he said.

Tour agents said the app will appeal to young and Internet-savvy travellers.

"To have paid so much already for the app means that visitors must have a keen interest in the culture and area. The app will probably give them an in-depth experience of the place and will be especially fitting for those who want to go on their own adventure," said Dynasty Travel spokesman Alicia Seah.

Others, such as student Praveena M., 26, who frequents the area, said the price is prohibitive, especially for locals.

"If they lower the cost, tourists might be encouraged to spend more along the way," she said.


This article was first published on September 10, 2014.
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