After being formally introduced last year in November, the new Kootenay Rockies Tourism app has had a successful inaugural summer campaign that has seen over 4,000 downloads.
“There’s no question it’s of great benefit to the Columbia Valley and all the different areas of the Kootenay Rockies region because it provides all the up-to-date information and the content is managed by us, it’s accurate, it’s totally up to date at all times,” said Kootenay Rockies Tourism president Chris Dadson.
The Kootenay Rockies Tourism (KRT) mobile program actually started in 2007 when all the content from their regular award-winning website — any information a traveller in the region would want — was repurposed for a mobile device. The website, www.kootenayrockies.mobi, had smaller photos and less formatting to allow for faster downloads on a phone.
“It’s grown consistently over the years; the unique visits are really what we measure and they tripled from year four (2010) to year five (2011),” said Dadson. “We’re actually up on visits to that website with an average number of visits per day at 288 people.”
With the success of the .mobi site, the obvious next step was to embrace the next generation of the mobile experience and develop the KOOTENAYapp. Between February and May of this year, KRT visited 15 communities throughout the region to meet with over 100 tourism businesses and community representatives to promote the ap and launch the Visitor Centre KOOTENAYapp awareness campaign, whereby each of the visitor information centres were given a supply of Kootenay Rockies travel flashlights to present as a gift to travellers who downloaded the app.
The 4,000 downloads since May of this year is very encouraging, said Dadson. The awareness campaign has also been supported by backlit signage at the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook that suggests to people they can download the app while they wait for their luggage.
“So we’re very pleased and we believe mobile has a great future particularly when the next generation of travellers has grown up with mobile,” Dadson said. “They keep their songs and their calendar and everything on their phones much more so than the previous generation who were either more interested in print or computers at home, that type of planning.”
Unique to the app is the “near me” function, which lists tourist information based on geographic location, and that information can include anything from hours of operation, to price lists, to listings for restaurants, golf courses, hotels and more. Another advantage is that it caters to the many people who travel without any fixed plans, giving them day-to-day access to bookings availability.
Dadson said that while by far the most downloads are in the iPhone format, there is also an app for iPad, iPod, Android, and Blackberry users. The download is available free of charge and can be found in a mobile user’s app store by typing in “Kootenay.”
People have been downloading the app on the spot when they enter the Columbia Valley Visitor Information Centre located on Highway 93/95 just south of the Invermere Crossroads, said Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce president Susan Smith. The centre supports the new mobile campaign with signage and staff have been handing out the travel flashlights to everyone from kids to seniors who come in with a smartphone, she said. Smith added that is seeing much more interest among seniors in the mobile functions of their smartphones once they’ve been shown how user-friendly and convenient they are.
The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce has in fact been a designated location for the federal Community Access Program (CAP), a federal initiative that helps individuals, community organizations and small businesses improve their knowledge and effective use of the Internet and related information technologies. While the source funding ended this year, Smith hopes they will be continue to be eligible for the grant in the future.
While many local business have embraced the Kootenay app, there are still many that haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity, she said.
“I think it’s important for all business owners in the region to take the time to register,” said Smith. “This is mobile marketing service is only going to grow.”
KTR’s lofty goal is 10,000 downloads among the different varieties of apps by May 2013.
“So we shall see,” said Dadson. “We’re very pleased and we see mobile marketing as a very strong channel for our marketing activities over the years to come.”