Technology

Advanced Mobile App Books Limo Rides Instantly

Russ Golyak
Posted on August 4, 2011
Former U.S. operator Russ Golyak is broadening his Pacific Rim horizons with a technology consulting gig in Singapore. But he still has a strong eye for chauffeured service.

Former U.S. operator Russ Golyak is broadening his Pacific Rim horizons with a technology consulting gig in Singapore. But he still has a strong eye for chauffeured service.

Former U.S. operator Russ Golyak is broadening his Pacific Rim horizons with a technology consulting gig in Singapore. But he still has a strong eye for chauffeured service.
Former U.S. operator Russ Golyak is broadening his Pacific Rim horizons with a technology consulting gig in Singapore. But he still has a strong eye for chauffeured service.

When you think of the limousine industry in Southeast Asia, an image of a “tuk tuk” probably comes to mind. But not in Singapore. Even when you can still catch a scenic city-sightseeing tour in a bicycle side-cart driven by a charming old Chinese man outside the Raffles Hotel, it’s not the first thing that grabs your attention in this country full of opulence and wealth. You don’t need to look past the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, with its impressive surfboard-shaped pool stretching across triple 57-story towers overlooking the city skyline. Practically every four- and five-star hotel has a fleet of the latest model BMW and Mercedes-Benz flagship sedans at the disposal of their guests. Some even go a step beyond with a Rolls-Royce Phantom or a bright red Ferrari parked up front begging to be taken for a ride. But it’s not what caught my attention. The ability to book a ride on a smartphone did.

Sure, you can call in a booking, or even book yourself online or via e-mail just about anywhere else in the world. But it’s time consuming and requires more interaction than a busy professional cares to spare. Why not use an app?

In Singapore, the population is obsessed with the iProducts from Apple. iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch can be spotted just about anywhere without even looking for them. So it makes perfect sense that this little island city-state would be an early adopter of such technology. Strict cultural discipline already in place certainly helps. In addition to bus stops, there are numerous taxi stops (which look identical to the bus stops) littering the commercial business district with ‘Please Q’ signs reminding tourists you can’t just whistle a cab wherever you fancy as you would in New York City or London.

However, an educated consumer would simply push the app button on a personal iPhone and the central reservation system would quickly update on how soon one should expect a ride downstairs. It’s a helpful feature, although you pay for the convenience as with anything else in Southeast Asia. While the app is free, the booking adds a $2.50 SGD convenience surcharge to your final bill every time you use it. Once on location, the cab service rings your phone to let you know your car is waiting.

The Singaporean limousine industry works on a similar principle, although it’s far more fragmented than the taxi business as one would imagine — the same story around the world. Although, this being Singapore, it’s much more organized. The main players are the same across both taxi and limo industries; in fact many Mercedes E-class and Chrysler 300C sedans are badged as LimoCabs or Prestige Cabs, partly due to high barriers to entry. A single vehicle investment easily could exceed $300,000 SGD. The cost of the actual car would be a small fraction of that figure, as government taxes dominate. It would explain why most ‘touters’ are typically sporting Malaysian plates; the cost of doing business across the strait is much more reasonable. With two causeways connecting the countries, there is easy access.

Oddly enough, LimoCabs (www.limousinecab.com; www.limousinetransport.com) only run a few cents more than standard taxi: a $3 flag down fee vs. $2.80, and 30 cents per mile vs. 20 cents per mile. That helps explain why many riders would pay for a Mercedes E-class or Chrysler 300 sedan versus an old Toyota Crown clunker.

Ultimately, ‘easy access’ is key, and you get that with an app for a booking agent. All the personal data, credit cards, past trips and preferences are stored. You can grant access for your app to gather data from your other apps to automatically link your travel itinerary with your destination itinerary, such as flight arrival information and hotel bookings. You can even link your activities with your booking, such as snorkeling or diving excursions. And yes, there’s even an app for that.

Russ Golyak is a consultant in Singapore for an iPhone App developer with branches that include kids books, dive shops and transportation services. Golyak previously worked 10 years in U.S. chauffeured transportation industry and in the NYC market. He also reported for LCT during his one-year stint in Australia working for Sydney- and Melbourne-based operators.

 

Related Topics: Global operators, mobile applications, mobile internet, reservations

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