Singapore-headquartered travel tech company Smoove Xperience has launched a new eponymous AI-powered app that aims to provide a seamless travel experience through curated guides and user-generated content, itinerary planning tools, and local deals.
Unlike most travel apps that are more localised and only address certain aspects of the journey, the “traveller-centric” platform not only focuses on improving every aspect of the travel journey, but also curates hyperlocalised travel guides, deals, and promotions.
Francis Ong, executive chairman of Smoove Xperience, said that the idea to launch an all-in-one travel app was born after a difficult and complicated trip to China in January 2020, shortly before Wuhan went into the world’s first coronavirus lockdown.
Following his return to Singapore from Beijing, Ong and his team started discussing the idea during Singapore’s circuit-breaker period last April.
Ong explained: “If you have ever been to China, you will understand the challenges we, as travellers, have to go through during our trips. Taking a cab to the hotel, finding a good restaurant nearby, learning about interesting places to visit, and most importantly, using their local digital payment systems.
“A few of my local friends tried helping me by recommending at least eight to 10 different apps, and you can probably imagine what a headache it was for a trip lasting just a few days. With this challenge in mind, we envisioned what the next generation of travel apps would be like.
“We realised that this is a very common problem not only for those going to China, but travellers going to any country. That is also how our company slogan ‘Your local companion’ was born.”
Soft launched in January 2021, the Smoove Xperience app also provides simple navigation and transportation options, easy F&B bookings, tax refunds, and smooth digital payment via its multi-currency e-wallet.
Other in-built tools include the option for business travellers to book a workstation or meeting room at their destination, and the facilitation of processes such as pre-departure Covid testing and e-visa application for medical tourism purposes.
Currently, the lifestyle travel app has more than a dozen partners onboard, including prominent names such as China T-Union, a nationwide contactless card initiative, and online maps provider Here Maps.
The app also provides the latest and most accurate epidemiological data of the user’s chosen destination, by working with an undisclosed third-party vendor; and showcases a range of medical travel services offered by its multi-country medical partner.
With the pandemic having converted many people to digital natives who rely on digital tools for everything, the travel market must adapt to change, said Ong.
“That is why we believe that a single digital platform addressing all the needs of a traveller will be key to the post-pandemic travel industry. We aim to be the new breed of innovators, using this opportunity to modernise and push the travel industry towards new frontiers,” he said.
The app caters to a variety of travellers – from business and family travellers to FITs – and is focused on the travel industry in China and South-east Asia.
As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic, Ong foresees that the Asia-Pacific region will be among the first to return. In-region travel will also likely be at the centre of the recovery, where according to an ILTM report, an estimated 57.5 per cent of Asia-Pacific traveller outbound spend will be captured within the region.
Ong noted that Asia-Pacific has been the fastest-growing wealth region, with China also being one of the largest contributors to travel-related spendings – not just in Asia, but across the globe.
He said: “Given our team’s familiarity with China and the South-east Asian market, we chose to start with these markets first, and have plans to expand to the wider Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”