By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With words like iPad, Kindle, and ‘apps’ now entrenched in the under-40 everyday lexicon, the way that people seek and consume information is rapidly changing. This is no different for vacationers and travel-addicts alike, and one English travel-writer released a brand new ‘app’ – Rio! – last month, now available on iTunes.
Now 33, Rob Coates first tripped across the Atlantic in the 1990s, heading to Jamaica as a youth worker. From there he went to Belize to research and write about its music and nightlife for Rough Guides.
Coates has since worked with Rough Guides on several projects, including being put in charge of last year’s Rough Guide to Rio book. Along the way, getting his own iPhone turned him on to the possibilities of creating a dedicated mobile device application for the Cidade Maravilhosa (marvelous city), the fruits of which are now available to the public.
Created along with developers Sutro Media and priced at under US$3, Rio! was the logical progression for Rob’s expert insider knowledge on the city. “I’ve aimed this app at the discerning tourist/traveler who wants to explore a bit of Rio, take in its exceptionally vibrant culture and nightlife and maybe also to learn something about its very unusual history.”
There are currently over two hundred entries on everything from hotels to restaurants, as well as things like Carnival tips and tourist attractions. The freedom that Rob has as creator to continually update and refresh the content is something that is obviously impossible with a guide book.
“I think guide books will be around for a lot longer yet – and most Rough Guides and Lonely Planets are available on iPad and Kindle if you favor reading electronic-style. The great thing about books is that they can cope with all weathers; you can read them on planes, boats, buses, on the beach or wherever; you don’t need the web to access them; and they’re of little interest to thieves.” admits Coates.
He continues, “That said, I believe smartphone apps are about to make a serious dent into city guidebook sales – their use of maps, GPS, photos, web links, and regular updating, make them -if I’m honest- far more accurate than a guidebook could ever be.”
There is an mistakable shift in the traveler experience now that most hotels, hostels and temporary apartments are offering wi-fi. People embark on six-month adventures with laptop in tow and constantly keep family and friends updated with photos and stories.
“It does worry me a bit these days that some people seem to travel or explore more as a means to broadcast themselves than for any tangible experience or benefit.” Coates muses, but adds, “Technology’s here to stay so we may as well run with it and try to make it work better for us.”
With more than one hundred additions already to be made, Coates’ mobile app looks poised to be the most accessible word in getting to know the Rio. His own passion leaves its unmistakable stamp on the content too, explaining “Rio’s incomparable to anywhere else – its sheer beauty and diversity makes it top of the list every time.”