Smartphones have become a handy tool for meeting-goers who want to get out on the town.
Dozens of cities have developed free smartphone applications that take users on tours, help them find places to eat and shop, and provide them with maps and directions.
“There is a whole new generation that only communicates with phone technologies, and the rest of us are using it for ease as well,” said Crystal Seitz of the Greater Reading, Pa., Convention and Visitors Bureau, which recently created a mobile website for visitors.
Business travelers in particular use their phones as travel aids.
“Sixty-seven percent of leisure and 77 percent of business travelers are using their Web-enabled mobile devices to locate hotels, local services and attractions, so we expect our new app to become an increasingly important tool for us,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of the Palm Beach County CVB in Palm Beach, Fla.
Here’s a look at a handful of applications available in second-tier and smaller cities:
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Several local organizations, including the CVB, the downtown authority and the historical society, have developed the GR Tag Tour, a one-mile, interactive walking tour of downtown Grand Rapids to be used with smartphones with a QR code reader.
At each of 13 stops, visitors hear stories about the site’s history, view photos submitted by visitors and link to the Downtown Grand Rapids website to find nearby places to eat or shop. There’s also a walking map and directions. Tours of the city’s art and architecture may soon be on the way. For more information, visit www.grtagtour.com.
READING, Pa. — More than 10,000 visitors have downloaded the Greater Reading CVB’s mobile site takearide.mobi since it was launched in October. The site has information about upcoming events, restaurants, accommodations, and museums and other attractions.
Next year, the bureau plans to add Droid and BlackBerry sites. The application can be downloaded at m.readingberkspa.com, at the Apple iTunes App store or at takearide.mobi.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County CVB is offering its free Palm Beach Florida Travel Companion for iPhone users.
The app has detailed descriptions of events, restaurants and hotels; interactive maps access to photos and videos; a Favorites tab; and real-time updates for new and revised information. To download, visit http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/palm-beach-florida-travel/id396778686?mt=8.
RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Is for Lovers iPhone app puts the state in the palm of a visitor’s hand. More than 12,000 attractions, events, accommodations, restaurants and special offers can be downloaded in a mobile guide that is free at the iTunes app store for iPhone and iPad users.
Among the features is Near Me, which allows users to find attractions within a 15-mile radius; maps and directions for every listing; customers’ reviews of restaurants and hotels, and pet-friendly attractions and destinations.
SANTA CLAUS, Ind. — The Holiday World and More app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times by smartphone users who wanted to know more about fun activities at Holiday World as well as at area attractions such as Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood Home.
The app also includes information about places to stay, restaurants, events, local weather and more. For more information, visit m.SantaClausInd.org and m.IndianasAbeLincoln.org.
AUGUSTA, Maine — In search of the nearest lobster roll? Look no further than Maine’s new Maine Lobster app. Available for iPhone and Droid platforms, it provides information on everything from Maine restaurants that serve lobster and lobster boat tours to fun facts about lobsters and more than 200 lobster recipes.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A year ago, Visit Cheyenne developed a mobile version of its www.cheyenne.org website. Now, it is creating a second mobile site solely for meetings in Cheyenne; the app should be in operation by early this summer.
The site can be customized for meetings being held in Cheyenne. To do so, the CVB site will load meeting information, such as session schedules, exhibitors, speaker bios and attendee information.
Also, an attendee button will allow conventiongoers to connect to one another by phone, text, email or even social media avenues while they are in Cheyenne.
When a meeting ends, Visit Cheyenne will replace the meeting-specific information with news for the next Cheyenne convention. Go to discovercheyenne.mobi.
NAPA, Calif. — The Napa Valley Destination Council’s Visit Napa Valley mobile app is available for all smartphones.
The app includes GPS-based maps, the capability to choose wineries based on varietals, exclusive offers from local merchants, weather reports, hot news and more. To download the app, go to www.legendarynapavalley.com.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A local convention bureau has partnered with the world’s largest travel publisher to create a new guidebook, mobile application and videos.
The Lonely Planet/Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel alliance is thought to be the first of its kind.
Lonely Planet author Adam Karlin wrote the destination’s 144-page guidebook, and a free iPhone mobile app of the guide is available in the Lonely Planet iTunes store.
The virtual guide features Lonely Planet picks on what to see and do, along with detailed maps and videos of the destination.
It includes more than 100 attractions, shops, restaurants, activities and accommodations; direct contact information; Google maps; and a link to www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com for complete destination information.
A USA Today mention of the app resulted in 13,000 downloads in one day; three weeks after the launch the app had been downloaded 29,000 times.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Instead of an app, the Virginia Beach CVB has opted for a wireless application protocol (WAP).
Unlike a traditional mobile app, a WAP does not need to be downloaded to a mobile device. It works across all mobile platforms and is accessed by Web browser, which makes it search friendly and capable of displaying results in browsers, which a traditional app does not do.
The bureau chose a WAP instead of an app because different types of travelers use different kinds of smartphones.
The WAP offers visitors the ability to explore Virginia Beach virtually by presenting them with various alternatives based on their preferences.
For instance, by clicking on Dining, users are presented with alternatives for various types of cuisine, listings for specific restaurants that include addresses and contact information, price ranges and a description of the establishment.
The WAP also offers comprehensive information on how to get around the city, providing directions and tips on traffic, a list of public transportation options, and information and directions to city parking lots and garages, as well as beach access for the disabled.
The Virginia Beach WAP also integrates with other applications on the device. For example, phone numbers are linked, and consumers can click to call any of the listed services with a simple tap or click on their phone.
To access the site, type www.VisitVirginiaBeach.com into a mobile browser.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Designed for the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and other Web-enabled devices, the Springfield CVB’s mobile app can be downloaded free at www.VisitSpringfield.mobi or in the device’s applications store.
The app provides information about places to play, eat, shop and stay; a list of upcoming events and special offers; Springfield history; weather; and more. For devices with GPS, the app shows locations and events that are closest to the user, with the furthest ones shown last; without GPS, the app shows listings in alpha order. The mobile app also has a search function.