Does your town need a tourism app?
We say, probably not.
If you do not already have a responsive, fast, mobile-friendly website that is search engine optimized, you do NOT need to be messing around with a destination app.
You need to devote your resources to improving your website.
But, Isn’t an App Important in a Mobile World?
There is no question that apps like Google Maps, Yelp, weather apps, Lyft/Uber, Instagram, and Hotel Tonight have changed the travel experience.
That does not mean that anyone will care enough about YOUR app to add it to the pile of apps that are already on their phone.
Most people will get the destination information that they need from search engines – which is why your website needs to be in great shape, so they find you first – review sites, and by asking their social networks.
An app really only beats the convenience of a responsive website when it can do something even better than a website.
That is why public transit apps often make sense, for example. They are easier to use than a website for on-the-go ticket purchases, transit maps, trip planning and routes, schedules, etc.
A CVB or DMO app can be helpful to visitors in areas that have poor data coverage; it allows them to access app info even when they’re offline. International visitors can use apps offline to avoid roaming charges. Some DMOs also offer tourism partner discounts within their app, which is a helpful metric to track user activity.
However, an app is not something you invest in just because you, or your boss, or your Board, think it’s “modern” and “cool” to have one.
I Still Want a Tourism App.
What Should I Consider?
Okay then, you need to be ready to:
1) Deliver a GREAT UX (user experience.) A junky, crashing, ad-clogged app with little useful info is definitely worse than no app at all. Great UX takes time, resources, and a budget that you may not have. If you do, great. Build an awesome app if it makes sense for you.
2) Market the app. No one will download it or install it if they don’t know about it. Even if people know about it, they must be convinced that it is worth taking up space on their already-crowded phone. You’ll need an ongoing ad budget for your app, for both offline and online promotion.
3) Set goals for the app. What are you trying to accomplish with your app? Which of your organization’s goals will it help you achieve? How do you measure app success? Download numbers mean nothing if people don’t actually install, open, and use it.
Many times when we ask DMOs about their destination apps, they tell us that it is their locals who end up using their app the most.
That’s great, but to us that means that it is really a local resident asset, not a tourism asset.
In that case, maybe your local municipal government needs to build an app, not you as the DMO….
Agree? Disagree? Tell us down in the comments.
PS. Some of these thoughts came directly from client questions that inspired a recent update of Lesson Six in our self-paced online course in social media and digital marketing for tourism. Our course is really an ongoing knowledge bank and consulting resource – it includes Q&A with us, continuous course updates, and a private Facebook Group. Our clients never lose course access, either. By all means, contact us if you’re interested but have questions. Thanks!
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We are always interested in opportunities to build connections between online travel media and tourism organizations.
For U.S. Midwest region travel bloggers and CVBs/DMOs, that’s exactly what the Building Community conference is set to do in Clear Lake, Iowa, May 9 – 11, 2018.
We’re proud Media Partners of this new event, and our co-founder Sheila Scarborough is one of the speakers.
Go here to learn more and register for Building Community, and we hope to see you soon in the U.S. heartland.