December 2009 – Reaching out with outposts

Sheila attacks her garage post-Christmas 2008There’s something about this time of year that makes you want to reflect….and then go organize your garage.

It’s an interesting combination of assessing where you’ve been, looking at what you did or didn’t accomplish, vowing to improve at work and at home and then (if you’re like Becky) writing up a big ol’ single-spaced 2010 goals and focus list that’s stuffed with specific performance targets.

Or, be like Sheila, and say, “WHAT? The Halloween decorations don’t magically put themselves away?!”  Then she Xeroxes her 1986 New Year’s Resolutions because she isn’t satisfied with her accomplishment rate yet.

Whatever your style, we’re here to help.

This is the fourth Tourism Currents newsletter, and we think we’re hitting our own goal of bringing you fresh, useful tourism-related guidance, links and data every month.  We try to tie part of the content to that month’s Lesson topic (and yes, we’ll be reopening paid Lesson content for our next class in the spring, probably March or April.) The rest of the newsletter is an effort to provide a variety of destination marketing ideas and examples plus “reports from the front” about some of the more cutting-edge developments on the social Web.

How is the newsletter working for you?  Anything you’d like more of, or less of? We’d love your feedback, so we’ve opened the comments below. If you have suggestions, or would really like a blurb in the January 2010 newsletter about “subject X,”  please leave a comment and let us know.


What is an “outpost” site?

After we covered Web sites, blogs and a little about Facebook Fan Pages in the November “Building a Home Base” Lesson and blog post, we’re going to try to get our arms around all of the more peripheral ways that you can reach visitors through what we’re calling “outposts” (full credit to Chris Brogan for the home base/outposts concept.)

This inevitably leads into “blow your head off” territory; i.e., you’re just figuring out what Facebook is and we roll in asking you to learn a little bit about 18 some-odd other services on top of that.  Honestly, decapitation is not our intention – we just think it’s important for you to hear about some of the sites from which your visitors may be discovering you online.  That’s the wonder of the Web; casting a wide net ends up bringing in people from places you’d never expect.

Which sites do we consider “outposts?”

Here are some examples (some of which we partly set up to help show you how it’s done) so steal any ideas that look good to you:

  • Twitter – here’s @SheilaS and @BeckyMcCray plus of course @TourismCurrents (which is about the 4th item down on Google’s Page One when you search for us. Not that Twitter is important, or anything.)  🙂
  • Flickr photo sharing – here’s our Tourism Currents Flickr Group Pool (as a TC member you can join & upload pics of your town – go ahead, we’re tired of looking at ourselves!)
  • YouTube videos – here’s our Tourism Currents channel, and since it’s rather new and not populated much yet, here’s Sheila’s YouTube channel.)
  • LinkedIn professional networking (where people can find you through tourism-related Groups and Answers)


Two thoughts about Twitter this month:

1)  Paris, You Blew It.   Probably the biggest tech conference in Europe, Le Web, finished up this week in Paris.  It was two days of thousands of smart, well-connected people descending on the City of Light, many for the first time.

What is this?

It is an opportunity for the Paris tourism board to monitor the conference Twitter hashtag (#leweb) and act as a virtual Visitor’s Center for the city on Twitter.

What did they do?  Heck, we don’t know, because we never did find the city of Paris tourism folks on Twitter.

As we say on Twitter….#FAIL.

If you want to play, you have to take the field. Like, oh, London has. Or Berlin. Or even little Oslo.

2)  Portland, You Rock It.  On the other hand, the Portland, Oregon CVB (@TravelPortland) has it figured out. Maybe the “little guy” tries harder, but that’s how that whole David/Goliath thing happens.

They are active on Twitter and ready to answer visitor’s questions by paying attention to Portand mentions and following the #InPDX hashtag. Here’s how, from the Web site description of their Twisitor Center:

“Questions about visiting Portland? Come to our “Twisitor Center,” Travel Portland’s new virtual visitors center using Twitter.

How does it work?

Just post questions about your Portland visit and add the identifier #inpdx to the end of your tweet.

Example: “What’s the best way to get from the airport to downtown? #inpdx” or “Looking for a sandwich shop with free Wi-Fi, any suggestions? #inpdx”

Using the #inpdx identifier allows us to quickly find your questions and answer them promptly.”

Here’s their video to introduce the service:


Fab Flickr Idea of the Month

How about this one….

The Iowa DNR (Department of Natural Resources) Flickr Group for hunter’s photos taken in Iowa.

Yes, the Iowa DNR is on Twitter as well; very helpful tweets for outdoors folks.

Maybe your own Parks and Wildlife department will want to check them out.


Where are you on Google?

Holiday Tourism Maps

Every town has some kind of holiday celebration or special occasion. Individually, these may not be enough to draw folks out of the metro areas to come visit, but when you band together with other communities, you can create a driving tour, a weekend getaway or a fun shopping trip.

Put together your map, post it on your website both as a download and as a separate page, and then go into Google Maps and make a custom map for it. Google will walk you through the process with a video.

We think this can be tremendously helpful and interesting to locals and visitors alike, and it will be unique to your area.

Google Local

Two trends are coming together on local search: more travelers are searching online before they ever leave home and more people are carrying a smartphone like an iPhone or BlackBerry (and even our own not-at-all-that-smart phones can access the web.)

Google is responding by integrating Google Local into Google Maps, so every search on any local business brings up Google Local business results, on a Google Map. And for people searching on their phones, Google reformats the info into a mobile-friendly display.

Because of that, every single local business with a phone should claim their listing in Google Local.

These lists start with just the basic phone book info, but you want to add more. You want to add the link to your website, your hours, brands you carry and as much more info as your customers want. You can also create coupons, at no cost. That gives folks an added incentive to click on your ad and to come in to present that coupon, showing it directly on their smartphone. And you know exactly where they came from.

Favorite Place Decal from Google Local
Favorite Place Decal from Google Local

Google also just added a new twist to their “Favorite Place” project for some of their most popular local businesses.

The 100,000 most popular businesses on Google Local were mailed a postcard, with a QR code.

The code is readable by most mobile phones including BlackBerries and iPhones.

Scanning the code pulls up the business’s Google Local listing.

You can read more about it at CNET news.

Update 23 December 2009:  Small Biz Trends has ten ways to improve the accuracy of your Google Local listing.

Update 20 January 2010: Excellent post by John Jantsch (aka Duct Tape Marketing) about more powerful local listings:  5 Ways To Get Found Online In Your Town.  Takeaway quote from the post: “Here’s how a twenty something finds a plumber, dentist, or flower shop. They pull out their phone, type in a category and drive the nearest pin drop.”  Yep. No Yellow Pages anywhere in there, sports fans.


‘Tis the season for economic development: Shop Local

Shop local campaigns are a hot topic.

Studies show that towns that use a shop local campaign have real measurable benefits. The “get local” movement is so powerful that chain stores are slapping “local” labels on items and some chains (including Starbucks) are experimenting with “unbranded” local stores. For tons more detail on the new drive towards “local,” read “A New Deal for Local Economies” at

Here are two shop local ideas you can adapt.

1. Advertise on the utility bills.

Shop Alva message on utility bill

Shop Alva message on utility bill

Becky’s  City of Alva utility bill includes a line that normally says something like “No trash pickup on Monday.” This month it says, “Support your local merchants – Shop Alva for the Holidays.”

You can probably get your city on board with this, and it will reach lots more people than any paid advertising.

2. Candy Cane Cash, Santa Bucks, etc.

In Ponca City, Oklahoma, it’s Santa Bucks. Shop in a local merchant’s store, receive tickets, show up for the drawing and potentially win big prizes. Becky knows this works because she just ran into a Ponca City resident who excitedly showed off her wallet full of tickets.

In Enid, Oklahoma, it’s Candy Cane Cash. Added to the tickets and drawing are mystery shoppers who hand out instant cash rewards to folks caught shopping in local businesses. They also reward clerks who know the rules and hand out tickets. Great way to add some motivation!

The news story in the Enid News and Eagle, said:

“I think it encourages people who may think of shopping out of town to give participating merchants first shot. If they shop there they may win the grand prize. It encourages people to keep more money in Enid and brings people into town from other areas to shop for a chance to win,” (Committee member April) Danahy said.

For some folks, mixing a shop local campaign with tourism seems tricky. Your visitors aren’t local, so they won’t want to get involved, will they?

Yes, they will. Your visitors already feel a connection to you. Those people have chosen to support you by visiting, and they are interested in supporting you while they are there. Each purchase they make with your community makes it easier for you to provide a richer variety of choices from interesting, local shops.


Terms you need to know about: AR (Augmented Reality)

In addition to the explosive growth of mobile/smartphones in 2010/2011, there is another new phenomenon that will add a tremendous richness to travel and tourism (especially in iPhone, Android and other smartphones.)

It’s called Augmented Reality (AR) and we think it’s going to take off very soon.  Here’s why you care about it:

AR allows your visitors to have an “augmented” view of whatever they are looking at through their smartphone (through the smartphone’s camera lens, actually.)  People can hold up their phone, look down your Main Street and with AR, see information about all of the businesses in each building, for example.  That could include shops, bars and restaurants.

Here is just one example that helps people find the closest New York City subway station….it is admittedly crude since it’s such new technology, but can you see the possibilities?

Here’s another travel-related explanatory video by the Dutch company Spotted By Locals (one of the main AR developers is Amsterdam-based Layar. The Dutch have it going ON!)

A SlideShare presentation plus video to explain how they’re using AR:

We can’t embed it here because it doesn’t come with embed sharing (boo….) but click here to see a video by the UK’s Guardian travel reporter on his experiments with AR.

We’re not trying to get too “far out” on you here (if we wanted to do that, we’d talk about this recent cool geography training session with National Geographic, held virtually in Second Life) but we do think it’s important that you’re aware of these kinds of developments.

Combined with burgeoning use of smartphones and apps (applications) for those phones, you’ll see more of this sort of innovation very soon, and you may wish to think about budgeting for developing an app yourself.  We see a direct utility for this technology as it could be used for tourism.

Thanks for visiting!  Comments, thoughts and feedback are welcome below.


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Commenting area

  1. As always, great info. Augmented reality still blows my mind.

    What a delightful surprise to find a mention of the Iowa DNR Flickr pool and Twitter account.


    Jessica O’Riley (

    • Thanks, Jessica! Well, we thought the hunter’s thing was a terrific idea – Sheila pinged Texas Parks & Wildlife on Twitter about it. They ought to look into setting one up, too.

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