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Virginia's Fairfax County promotes tourism via iPhone app

Virginia?s Fairfax County is promoting tourism and local business with a new iPhone application.

The Visit Fairfax application lets users find nearby businesses, discover promotional offers and discounts and plan their vacation itineraries by consulting a list of upcoming events. The application was developed using the DestinationM platform, designed specifically to help destination marketing organizations create mobile promotional experiences.

?Our mission is to work with the local hospitality community to showcase Fairfax County as a premier destination for business and recreational travelers,? said Barry Biggar, president/CEO of Visit Fairfax, Fairfax, VA.

?This new mobile application and text messaging program opens up a whole new way for us to develop and promote tourism, conventions, sporting events and other visitor opportunities in the region,? he said.

DestinationM was developed by SIM Partners, Chicago, in partnership with McLean, VA-based eBrains.

How it works
A navigation bar along the bottom of the screen lets users switch between the application?s different features such as ?Near Me,? ?Offers? and ?Categories.?

Here is a screen grab of the Near Me section of the application:

Near Me uses the iPhone?s GPS capabilities to detect a user's location and generates a Google Map to display nearby businesses and attractions.

The Offers section includes a list of special promotions and discounts from local businesses.

Categories lets users search for local businesses and destinations by browsing different types of businesses such as ?Dining,? ?Family Friendly? and ?Nature & Outdoors.?

Businesses? individual pages feature information including an address, phone number which users can click to call and directions.

Users can also bring up an illustration of the business on the application?s map feature, or click the ?Backpack? button to save the page for later reference.

The application?s developers are getting the word out through a cross-channel promotional campaign that includes demonstrations at travel industry events.

"Fairfax County hotels, restaurants and attractions who are interested in venturing into the rapidly growing area of mobile will now be able to enhance their marketing efforts with a turnkey solution to leverage the thousands of local and visiting consumers who are using text messaging and smart phones on a daily basis," said Dave Neudeck, electronic marketing director at the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Richmond, VA.

Mobile tourism promotions
The travel industry is quickly taking to the mobile space to encourage tourism and enhance vacation experience.

For example, the Canada Tourism Commission integrated a QR code into an ad in the Los Angeles Times to promote visits to the country (see story).

Likewise, the Wynn Las Vegas hotel used developer Mobile Roadie?s application platform to promote its hotel and casino (see story).

?Travelers use a variety of online resources and printed guides in planning their trips,? said Jon Schepke, president of SIM Partners. ?However, more than two-thirds of consumers visiting a destination will not go to the destination?s Web site prior to their trips.

?Destination marketers and conventional and visitors? bureaus don?t have the time or resources to add more to their marketing plates, so SIM Partners and eBrains developed a program to help them utilize mobile with the least amount of time or financial investment,? he said.

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York