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07/25/11

Sites for the QR-enabled Tourist

If geocaching isn't geeky enough for you, here's a new tech trend that gets you out of your chair and pounding the streets: guided tours powered by QR (quick response) codes. Some travel and tourism organizations are now using QR codes to replicate the self-guided audio tours that have long been a staple of museums or landmarks. Enterprises looking to deploy these tags in their own marketing collateral might want to take a closer look at some of these examples.

Gotham Guide claims to be the first QR tour of New York City, covering areas as far south as the Brooklyn Bridge and as far north as Central Park. Did you know that some of New York's wealthiest citizens live in converted horse stables? You can find out at the Washington Mews stop on the six-hour tour.

Tourism organizations are beginning to pile on. The Long Beach (WA) Peninsula Visitors Bureauhas stashed 19 QR codes along the 8.5-mile coastal Discovery Trail. The codes point out areas of interest and deliver background on the many pieces of art that dot the way.

Fort Smith (AR) National Park partnered with the city of Fort Smith to  link QR codes posted around the park to brief informational videos hosted by the city. The park is the first National Historic Site to use the technology and the results have been encouraging enough that the cities of Van Buren and Fort Smith are now incorporating QR into their marketing programs. BeeTagg.com helps track results.

Other parks are likely to jump on the bandwagon. The town of Crested Butte (CO), the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and the local tourism association  are now developing a similar programfor historic buildings in the Colorado town.

San Antonio's famous River Walk has recently been embellished with a tour that  places a dozen QR codes along a 1.7 mile stretch. The codes of link back to an audio narration by a local historian and author.

The City of Grand Rapids (MI)  has 13 stops on its QR tour along with a  printable map that gathers all the codes in one convenient place. Visitors are encouraged to snap photos and upload them to Flickr as well as to check in on Foursquare. Now the whole state of Michigan may be joining the craze. The Michigan Department Of Transportation this  began printing QR codes on the maps it distributes to tourists.

Napa Valley's ARTwalk  is adding an interactive dimension to its tour. Visitors can learn about sculptures via audio narrations. Once the exhibit comes to and, they can login and vote for their favorite artwork.

Glasgow's Mackintosh Heritage Group experimented last summer with  three architectural tours to guide visitors to some of the great structures in the city. Each tour lasted about 90 minutes. Cards were distributed to visitors with a starter code and instructions on how to use the technology. No word on whether the experiment was repeated this year.

With virtual tours, codes don't necessarily have to be on-site. The Canadian Tourism Commissionused them in a national newspaper campaign last year to link readers to pictures and videos of places they might like to explore how their summer vacations.

Attendees at the Rochester Jazz Festival last year could  snap pictures of giant codes on postersplaced throughout the grounds to access the festival guide.

Sometimes, QR means never having to say you were there. VisualTour.com lets real estate agents and home sellers embed codes into ads, flyers and even outdoor signs. Potential buyers can snap a picture of the code and get a video walk-through. Monterey County (CA) Virtual Tours provides a similar service. Search QR real estate on Google and you'll find  dozens of other examples.

And if you're worried about your legacy, well, here's another way to leave something behind. Quiring Monuments has introduced the QR-enabled "Living Headstone." Visitors to a grave site can link to an archive of information about the deceased. Price for a five year subscription: $65.


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