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City of Williamsburg uses iTourMobile

This article will examine how iTourMobile increased visitation, revenue, and the destination experience by delivering value to visitors with its products and services, and how other destinations can do the same. The first project was in the Colonial area of Williamsburg, Virginia. One was a free tour of Colonial Williamsburg that delivers an informative digital experience using GPS and audio through all of the houses and historic points of interest in Colonial Williamsburg. It gained thousands of downloads and was then sold as a paid tour, which now both improves the visitor’s experience at Colonial Williamsburg while generating thousands in revenue. The second was a paid application of a version of the city’s popular ghost tour.

The questions were, would people download and use these? Would they pay for them? Would the visitors feel they were receiving a good value? How will we market these digital tours? The answers to the first three questions were a resounding yes. This case study summarizes the results and value of iTourMobile, and how it can be replicated at other destinations.

Part 1: Enhanced experience: History at your fingertips!

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In the first six months of the app’s release, it received nearly 1,000 downloads and generated thousands more in revenue after becoming a paid tour. The value of iTour to visitors is that of fun, convenience, more information, and often times savings.

Visitors to the historic city have to pay more than $40 for a Colonial Williamsburg pass. Even then, they cannot easily experience or explore the area on their own unless they physically walk in to each location and ask for information from a person there. Further, not every location is open or is staffed, and even if it is, it may be crowded, or the person inside may be busy helping another person. No one wants to wander aimlessly through the streets while wondering about the area around them! Nor do they want to carry around a brochure and try to read it’s limited information. So, a customer would need to buy a tour or hire a private tour guide to learn about the houses, history, and buildings in the city. A family of four would pay nearly $150 for admission to the area. This does not include any other tours, which would require scheduling and add to the cost.

iTourMobile delivered an experience through the historic living museum in Colonial Williamsburg that let visitors receive narrated information, images, and videos for each building, including those that had no information or were closed. While the digital tour is not a substitute for an admission ticket at Colonial Williamsburg, it opened up the wealth of history to anyone with a smartphone. The tour features 155 locations and nearly four hours of audio. It’s updated regularly to reflect new places of interest, and new information.

Now, as a family of four walks through the historic city with the itourmobile application, a British voice actor automatically greets them as they approach each location. They don’t have to press buttons or reach into their pockets or bags to find a brochure. They don’t have to wait for someone inside to tell them about the location, and they don’t have to worry about whether or not the location is open that day.

The tour experience through Colonial Williamsburg exceeded 2,000 downloads in the month of April 2014. Now, visitors can experience Colonial Williamsburg in a way that is not currently available to them: at their own pace, at their convenience, while enjoying substantial savings.

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Part 2: Premium experiences

Customers pay for tours and experiences because they provide a valuable service. People want to remember their trip with fond and lasting memories with the friends and family with whom they traveled. The experience makes the memory, and so we are willing to pay for these memories.

One of the more popular experiences in Williamsburg is the Williamsburg Ghost Tour. Williamsburg, Virginia is one of the first cities to offer ghost tours in the US, starting in the 1980s. More than ten thousand visitors attend ghost tours in the city each year, which cost $12 to $16 per person.

In October of 2013, iTourMobile released a Williamsburg Ghost Tour application working with local tour operator Colonial Ghosts for $4.99 that has sold to hundreds of users. The most common purchases are groups of two to four people who enjoy the application. Each group saves $10 to $40. Paid users were interviewed, and they love it, as seen here.

Why? Freedom and flexibility. They can take the tour at any time, with whomever they want, for less cost, receive more content than they can on a regular tour, and they can access this content at any time. They can choose where to go, what to do first, and when to do it. Not only do iTours save customers money and offer convenience, but they can also deliver greater overall value.

Despite the misconception that only younger audiences use and enjoy the digital tours, the age of users span from 24 to 65. Yes, we get retired men and women using and enjoying the applications as well. To younger users, it almost comes natural, especially since they spend most of their time on their phone.

Part 3: The Results

I. Would people download and use these? Would the visitors feel they were receiving a good value? Would they pay for them?

Visitors not only downloaded these tours, they had a lot of fun with them. One benefit that discounted in the beginning was that the users really enjoyed the privacy and intimacy of taking the tours on their phone. It let them take the tour at their own pace, with their friends and family, and let them explore areas on their own. It also added to a sense of adventure as a group of girls rushed down a dark street, hurrying ahead of their family to get to the next haunted location as scary sounds played in the background. The benefits were clear:

  • Fun
  • Convenient
  • Intimate
  • Economical

Yes, if tours are made well with quality content. Of course, the design and delivery system of iTourMobile had to be present. What makes iTour different from other providers is that you know our product is good. It has to be. We sell many tours to the traveling public. In this example, both the ghost tour and colonial Williamsburg tour generated more than 1,000 paid downloads.

How will we market these digital tours?

Flyers, brochures, and partnerships! iTour helps its customers market and promote their app with custom designed brochures, flyers, and marketing strategies.

 

Part 4: Customer Reviews

“The GPS on the phone coordinated perfectly with the tour. I loved how even as you passed a location it would automatically start playing. Having the photos of the places were also a huge help too. Makes finding the spots in the night so much easier. There were some sound effects that were in a few of the locations which was a nice touch. We listened through shared headphones which worked great but the phone also didn’t have any issues playing through the speakers.”


“I took my phone on a full charge and was able to visit about all of the locations but three. We did not go to the Public Hospital, Dora-Armistead house, Matthew Whaley and PBK hall. Simply because we had been walking all day and these were a bit outside the general walk of Williamsburg. However, I have listened to them since then. A full charged phone would have definitely supported touring the full 26 sites.”


“We bought the mobile app to do on our own because we were getting in town late.After we figured things out we had a ton of fun.”


“I must say, what an absolute treat to have been able to do this. It really did end our vacation really nicely. We had done the Williamsburg tour by day and was able to begin the ghost tour around 8pm. It was really beneficial to learn the history of the places and then go back and hear the tales that the typical Williamsburg day tours won’t tell you. We actually didn’t get into the Payton Randolph House during the day tour. We were so intrigued by the ghost story, that we went back the next day to take the day tour. Really neat. We also would have never have gone through the campus of William and Mary either if we wouldn’t have taken this tour. What a gorgeous history campus and it was really interesting doing the Tyler Garden experiment. I have a feeling not many people, other than students, know about that trick.”


“This app is really cool! I know Williamsburg really well; but, I learned a lot through this virtual tour. If you’ve ever been on an audio tour, that’s basically what’s going on with this app. That said, this is so much more than any audio tour I’ve ever been on. Because the app integrates with your GPS, you’re able to actually see a map, satellite, or hybrid of the two (just like Google Maps) that allows you to pick a starting point and walk at your own pace. It’s really user-friendly and the interface is well designed. There are a bunch of pictures of the various haunted landmarks in the ‘burg–way more places than I knew about and I’ve been here a lot. And you can tell the designer of the app put a lot of research into each location. Not only is this app fun, you actually learn a lot too! My only critique is that there isn’t one for Virginia Beach (where I’m from)! All in all, this app is a fun and reasonably priced way to see Williamsburg in a whole new . . . spooky . . . way!”