Visitor Bureau Finds New Way to Connect

When Apple introduced its App Store three years ago with its ubiquitous “There’s an app for that” commercials, most consumers had no idea what an app was. Three years later mobile applications have transformed what we expect of a cell phone, how we get our news and increasingly, how we travel.

According to Destination Analytics’ January 2011 American Traveler Survey, 28 percent of travelers now make some or all of their vacation plans on a mobile device, such as an iPhone, Android phone, or iPad. That number is expected to rise at least 33 percent by 2012.

A screen capture of the Door County Visitor Bureau’s mobile site that will launch in July. Image courtesy of Noise Inc.

To connect to this growing audience the Door County Visitor Bureau will launch its own mobile site next month. A mobile website is different from a regular website as it’s formatted for best viewing on mobile devices.

“We have to be talking to the customer where they are,” said Mary Denis, Director of Marketing and Sales for the Door County Visitor Bureau. “And increasingly, where they are is on their mobile devices.”

Emily Kettner, Digital Strategies Director for Noise Inc., the Milwaukee-based advertising agency that is working with the visitor bureau to develop the site, said mobile sites are proving especially advantageous for tourism destinations.

Ten percent of TripAdvisor site traffic is now coming through mobile devices, she said, and 40 percent of all mobile users have made transactions on their phones.

“By developing a user-friendly Door County mobile site we will drive more transactions to members of the organization,” Kettner said.

Door County Visitor Bureau Director Jack Moneypenny said the mobile site will give visitors a new platform to connect with visitor bureau members.

“It will allow our members to send information to visitors who opt in to receive alerts from businesses, such as concerts, sales or gallery openings,” Moneypenny said. “They’ll be able to check hotel availability, get restaurant information and find locations as well.”

Online travel planning has become the standard in travel. Industry estimates put the number of visitors who do their vacation planning on the Internet at 65 – 90 percent. Much of that planning done on desktop or notebook computers was done before a trip, but 85 percent of mobile device users plan and find things to do while at the destination or en route to it.

Mobile presence is becoming increasingly important to the lodging industry. The internet market research firm eMarketer predicts that the number of U.S. mobile users who book rooms on mobile devices will jump from 8.7 million to 15.1 million by 2012. Seventy percent of those bookings are made on the same day of the stay, Kettner said.

The mobile site of the Peninsula Pulse helps residents and visitors keep up with everything going on in Door County wherever they are.

Denis said the development of the Door County mobile site was a $17,500 project completed over two years. She expects it to be especially important in connecting to younger vacationers. Ninety percent of people age 18 – 29 now own a cell phone.

“This is the way they are communicating and planning,” she said. “People always say they want to get away and relax, but five minutes after they get here they want to get online and communicate with friends or work.”

John Sprecher, Chairman of Noise Inc., praised the visitor bureau for making the move to mobile.

“Not every destination marketing organization is on board with this yet,” he said. “The Door County Visitor Bureau is bringing its membership the most exciting marketing component that’s out there right now.”

It’s a move that couldn’t be made without the increased marketing budget that room tax provides the visitor bureau, Moneypenny said.

“Without a doubt we would not be able to do this still working off the $250,000 marketing budget we had before room tax,” Moneypenny said. “It would have been years before we could tackle something like this. That would be devastating because to compete in the marketplace today you have to be where the people are.”

The 5.5 percent room tax implemented in 2007 brings in nearly $2 million per year to the visitor bureau to market Door County. That has enabled the visitor bureau to re-design its website, enlarge its email database from 18,000 to 192,000 addresses, add a social media campaign and now create a mobile site.

“Technology is increasing at a exponential rate. Five years ago, who thought phone technology would be where it is today?” Moneypenny said. “Who knows where it will be five years down the road. We have to stay on the cutting edge.”

The mobile site is expected to be launched in mid-July.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the mobile site as an app. The Door County Visitor Bureau is not releasing a mobile app.