Producing a great technology based tourism offering is a bit like baking a cake. You start with quality ingredients (your content), a well equipped kitchen (the technology), and some know-how (skills).
Putting all the ingredients together will cook up a future that looks something like the following scenario, all of which is, by the way, quite possible with today’s technology:
Joe Tourist and his wife are planning a last minute visit to your city. They enter your city into Google and are presented with an organized set of content: directions, a summary of the city, notable sites, events of interest, restaurants they might like, available hotel rooms, and so forth. Joe has his credit card on file with Google, so if he finds something he wants to buy, like a hotel room or a museum ticket, he simply clicks a button and voilà: the item is his. All necessary information, like confirmation numbers, get automatically posted to his Google calendar.
Because Joe’s wife is a Pink Floyd fan, Google also notifies them that a Floyd cover band is playing in town in two nights time. They weren’t planning on staying that long, but they really want to see the band, so they buy two nights at the hotel instead of one, plus two tickets to the show. Those transactions also get processed through Google: no new app or account required.
The next morning they throw some bags in the trunk and get ready to take off for the five-hour drive. But first, they program their in-vehicle apps to do three things:
- Provide turn-by-turn directions to your city.
- Alert them to certain things of interest along the way. Joe is a chocoholic, so his wife sets the in-vehicle device to alert them of anything chocolate related within a 20-minute detour of their drive.
- Play music. What else but Pink Floyd?
Sure enough, two hours into their drive, the device pauses their music and alerts them of an annual chocolate festival being held in a small town just 15 minutes off their path. Their map app asks if they want to take the detour. For chocolate? That’s a no brainer! They say “yes” and turn off their original path, and their route-planner automatically recalculates their new route.
The chocolate fest is a blast. Joe and his wife enjoy lunch, take a tour of a craft chocolate factory, eat lots of chocolate, buy some things for their house from the town’s main street, and get back on the road: a delightful detour in a small town they would have otherwise completely missed. The trip is a winner so far!
They arrive in your city and check into their hotel. Ignoring the rack of paper tourist pamphlets in the lobby, Joe pulls out his smartphone to see “what’s nearby.” Since it is happy hour, he taps on “Bars and Restaurants” and is presented with a list curated by a group of Facebook “foodies” he trusts. Bingo! A short walk away from the hotel is a place he knows they will love, and they do. Another success!
The next morning is a beautiful day, so they decide to walk around randomly. They come to a town square containing a statue. “Who is this guy?” his wife asks. “Let’s find out,” Joe says, checking his smartphone. Indeed, several people have tagged the statue with content; he can see that by a flag on the map. Tapping the flag brings up a list, with the most popular content (as rated by the “crowd”) near the top.
The top rated entry is by the statue subject’s granddaughter, who passed away thirty years prior, but not before recording memories of her grandfather on vinyl. This record was archived in the city’s library, then digitized and repurposed for use by Joe on his app. Its scratchy sounds add to its appeal.
The couple continues to stroll through your city, learning about its history, places, and people. They discover the best stories are told by one of the city’s professional tour guides, a professor of history at the local university, who offers a complete city tour for a fee. They buy it and take the tour after lunch. Excellent! They rate it as such and head back to their hotel.
Flashing their smartphones at the door of the club, they gain access to the Pink Floyd show. Afterward, having had a bit too much to drink, they hail an Uber car to get back to their hotel. It’s almost midnight. Once inside the car, they discover their driver doesn’t speak English. But wait! What’s this? He shows them a brochure for a 30-minute ghost tour (in English) they can add to their Uber charge for only a few bucks. Ghost tour? At midnight? For a fraction of the price of a live tour? Done.
The ghost tour is superb, complete with spooky sound effects played through the car’s speakers. As the driver approaches each point of interest, the in-vehicle mobile device triggers the audio, so it plays. The driver never has to take his hands off the wheel or his eyes off the road; everything is automatic. The person who developed the ghost tour, who shares a percentage of the sale with the Uber driver, is home asleep. It is, after all, past midnight!
After brunch the next morning, Joe and his wife visit an art museum with tickets they bought before leaving home. As they view each painting, they choose an option to view a short video of the artist discussing the piece, motivation, techniques used, inspiration, and so forth. Sometimes Joe wants to view a video that his wife does not, and vice versa, and sometimes they just want to look at the piece. They are each in control of their individual experiences.
After the museum, they head for home. It has been a wonderful weekend, and mobile technology played a vital role in making it possible.
As I said, everything I conceptualized in the above scenario is possible with today’s technology. The main missing ingredient is the content, which is why I advocate starting now to develop yours. Again, audio will be king for most of these apps, and certainly those that play in the car. Properly done, those audio assets will serve you well now in handheld devices, and tomorrow as the relatively unplowed fields of the vehicle become ripe for planting.