Tink Labs wants to bring its handy smartphones to hotel rooms in Europe as gadgets prove a hit in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 December, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 5:04pm

Hong Kong travel start-up Tink Labs, which provides smartphones to guests at hotels in the city, has plans to expand in Europe.

Launched in 2012, Tink Labs’ s self-branded handy devices were first rented to customers at Hong Kong International Airport to help them avoid expensive roaming charges.

But it later changed tack to target hotel guests. Handy is now available in 20,000 Hong Kong hotel rooms, where it serves as a neat little city guide among other features.

As well as offering free internet access and calls, Handy provides portable access to hotel services, such as the concierge, or details about the property’s restaurants and spas.

“Even though a hotel is home base for travellers, you’re spending a very insignificant amount of time in the hotel,” Tink Labs chief executive officer Terence Kwok said.

“This essentially connects the hotel to you, being able to see all the services offered by the hotel anywhere you go.”

Data collected by handy on the success rate of spa or restaurant offers made over the platform allows the hotels to better understand their guests, Kwok said.

A direct link to the property’s social media pages and TripAdvisor page have boosted engagement from guests, Kwok said, adding that average TripAdvisor scores for hotels increased by 0.31 points out of five after offering handy with rooms.

Handy devices are now available in three- to five -star hotels in Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Bangkok and Istanbul.

The smartphone is pre-loaded with travel guides written by an in-house editorial team as well as apps including Facebook and Openrice. The average user spends 113 minutes on the device each day and a third of users are business travellers.

Tink Labs chief technology officer Philip Yuen said the platform is now on its fifth generation, and that the latest search function has allowed the company to learn more about what users are craving in each city.

For Hong Kong, the new search tool prompted the team to add more suggestions about to eat dim sum, the city’s favourite snack food.

In the past month, up to 200 new pieces of content are being published to handy daily, an increase from weekly updates. Posts are scheduled to go up at the most appropriate time, for example brunch suggestions in the early- to mid -morning.

Last week, Tink Labs announced it had secured a US$13.5 million investment from FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of the Taiwan-based assembly manufacturer Foxconn. It said it will use this to expand in Singapore and major European cities.

Earlier investors include TCL Communication Technology Holdings, manufacturers of Alcatel Onetouch smartphones.

A limited pool of venture capital in Hong Kong pushed the company to find investment elsewhere, Kwok said.

“When we worked with TCL Alcatel, they’d never done any sort of investment deal. For Foxconn, this is their first ever Hong Kong investment. So it’s their first, it’s our first,” Kwok said.

Tink Labs is now working with FIH Mobile to develop customised devices designed for its software.