Tourism On Your Phone: Why It Matters To Philly

Recent deals put Philadelphia at the forefront of mobile tourism trends ... who benefits?

With tourism, it’s all about where you are. Exactly where you are.

In Philadelphia, the past month has seen a wash of mobile geo-location tourism applications launch in and around the Cradle of Liberty. Trends say those deals and the mobile tools they employ today will help to profoundly reconfigure how tourists experience this ‘greene country towne‘ in the future.

City tourism officials announced with great fanfare last week a mobile app that puts users onto competitive ‘treks,’ sending them throughout the city to find and explore and earn points for what they find and how they find it. Philadelphia is the first city to use the platform, developed with SCVNGR, a now Boston-based company with roots at Princeton and Drexel universities.

In May, a deal was announced between  VisitPA and geo-location social media powerhouse Foursquare, offering users digital badges for checking in at locations across the state in one of three categories: dining, buying and museum-going. Visit Bucks County has also launched a Foursquare deal, and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is starting to play there too.

Then in early June, the Fairmount Park Art Association unveiled its multi-platform Museum without Walls, in which visitors to the Ben Franklin Parkway can dial a phone number and choose to hear professionally produced oral histories about the city’s public sculptures.

Geo-location mobile technology meets the demands of a new tourism world: We want more access to information on our own time, with more customization options and richer experiences. Regional tourism officials are hoping to keep up and, by most accounts, remain among the most innovative in the country.

Smartphone users today are dictating what’s worth developing, which means the great geo-location tourism wars are afoot and we’ll decide today how we’ll visit our great sites tomorrow. The writing on the Liberty Bell seems to suggest that demand will only increase in the future, so now’s the time for Philadelphia to get ahead of the curve, learn, improve and make touring town better and easier than ever.

There’s an advantage for tourism officials, too, because they’ll be able to better gauge just how many and what kinds of people trek to the East Passyunk commercial district or the different corners of the new Convention Center. Knowing with greater detail than ever before where, when, why and how people are coming and moving throughout Philadelphia can only mean improved experiences and more visitors.