How Tourism Destinations are Attracting Visitors with the iPad

How Tourism Destinations are Attracting Visitors with the iPad

There is little question that the iPad is reshaping the way we travel. From booking a hotel to reading while in-flight, even taking photos (hilarious!) has changed with the arrival of our somewhat mobile friend.

And while the anecdotal evidence can be seen in the hands of our traveling peers, the empirical evidence is equally impressive. 91 percent of iPad users have used their device for a travel related activity of some kind.

This new travel trend has not gone unnoticed by our tourism marketing peers, creating a wave of destination-specific iPad apps. But that is where the similarities stop. DMOs and CVBs are taking a variety of courses in an attempt to capture a portion of this growing market.


Get Lost iPad AppThe standard choice for the destination iPad app takes the form of a traditional magazine. For the most part, these applications are simple conversions of an existing visitor guide or brochure, with some minor customization. Idaho, Sedona, Chicago, Thailand, Denmark and Switzerland have all launched apps with little more than a .PDF visitor guide.

While Denmark is clean and clear, landing the user right at the cover, Idaho and Sedona take an awkward magazine shelf approach…requiring the user to download the print piece to a bookshelf within the application. Odd and needless.

In the same category, but proudly different is the Montana solution. A magazine with a truly custom approach. In fact, the app appears in the native iPad bookshelf, a clear difference between the other solutions mentioned here.

For the iPad magazine we decided to move the focus on journalistic photography and narrative storytelling that brings the reader to Montana’s unspoiled nature, charming small towns and unique experiences.

Bev Clancey, Montana Office of Tourism

While most of the content is re-purposed from local sources, the Get Lost magazine presents a truly unique feel, especially when set against the other solutions in this category.


Tourism Vancouver iPad AppPopular for the smaller iPhone, planning applications appear to be a second choice when it comes to developing an iPad application, likely explained by the varied use patterns of the iPad.

Three of the more prominent planning applications come from Baltimore, Palm Springs and Vancouver.

We wanted to create an app that would service multiple audiences. People who are contemplating a trip to Vancouver can download the app and spend some time engaging with the beautiful imagery and videos that are included.

We also wanted to create a useful tool for visiting tourists who are already in Vancouver and are looking for help making their dinner reservations, booking theatre tickets, or arranging the next day’s sightseeing tour.

Creating the inspiration is the fun part…providing booking functionality isn’t nearly as sexy, but the app needed to have some useful trip-planning tools built into it in order to keep users coming back. In addition, providing booking functionality helps us to drive incremental business to our members and partners.

Darren Johner, Tourism Vancouver

While the Baltimore, Palm Springs and Vancouver solutions address both the at-home and in-market planner, the experience feels slightly forced on the iPad.

In the case of Vancouver, the inspirational section felt more useful and inviting. Of course, for both applications, this is simply a start, with modifications to come based upon user interaction.


Great Irish Road Trips iPad AppTruly where the interaction of the iPad stands out.

Using the lean-back, personal experience of the iPad while inspiring the potential traveler about the destination feels like the ideal use for the format. While the experience is by no means perfect, the examples from Australia, Ireland, Spain and, to an extent, Vancouver, are intriguing and immersive.

An innovative new tablet application has been developed to extend the story of the campaign’s film elements in a unique and memorable way. The There’s nothing like Australia app is presented in the form of a rich interactive coffee table book about Australia.

Tourism Australia

Creating an truly immersive application is challenging. For DMOs the desire for more information is pitted against the UI implications of the iPad.

Simply put, the more stuff you put in, the more complex the application becomes…which is not a good thing for the consumer.


After reviewing, researching and experiencing more than 30 tourism iPad applications, we found ourselves creating a wish list for future apps. Creative and UI opinions aside, remember that the most important factor in building an iPad application is your consumer.

  • Keep it simple. Avoid the temptation to fill your application with endless amounts of information. And skip the bookshelf.
  • Keep it small. The Tourism Australia app took 8 minutes to download on a 20mb/s connection. Oy.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with niche content. The Tourism Ireland application is a great example. Not only would it win for best art direction (gorgeous), but the niche content (road trips) is a perfect match with the medium.
  • Track everything. Make sure your developer is tracking as much data as possible. Yeah, your app may not win a beauty contest, but if it is delivering results, who cares?
  • Find competitive examples, then build a solution for your goals. Far too many examples of the OVG to application solution. Yes, it is cheap…but it is also cheap.

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