4 creative ways cities are using smart technologies to promote tourism

Ringgold is small city in Catoosa County, Georgia. But it's got big plans to boost tourism. Come Memorial Day when Ringgold hosts its annual 1890s Day Jamboree, attendees may notice a drone equipped with a video camera flying overhead. As the Chattanooga Times Free Press tells it, the goal is to promote tourism, not surveillance.

Earlier this month the board of the Ringgold Convention and Visitors Bureau voted to spend up to $1,200 for a drone to shoot footage of the Jamboree events that it will use to promote the city.

"This is going to give us a sweeping view of the whole town," Ringgold's Director of Downtown Development Joseph Brellenthin said in the Times Free Press story. "It's something unique that we can do that's not too expensive."

With vacation season just around the corner in many parts of the world -- and with tourism representing a big piece of the economic pie for many cities -- here's a quick look at ways cities are using smart technologies to boost tourism.

One LagunaDiscover Laguna Beach up close and interactive: The small seaside city of Laguna Beach, California, is already a major tourist attraction. But a new discovery center touted as the most tech-advanced in the U.S. may push it to new heights. One Laguna houses one of the world’s first 12.5-foot 4K resolution displays with 32 interactive touch points that lets visitors and locals alike experience Laguna Beach in a whole new way. “One Laguna is an innovative, immersive and entertaining experience that melds the most advanced technology, a prime brick-and-mortar location, and robust content to give visitors and locals a place to discover everything the world-class seaside city of Laguna Beach has to offer,” says Allan Simon, chairman of Firebrand Media which created the display. “From accommodations to shopping, from restaurants to entertainment, from coastal mountain hiking trails to the best beaches, One Laguna puts all of our spectacular city on display – and at your fingertips.”

Natchez, MS through Google Glass: The interactive marketing manager for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau is exploring how Google Glass can help put the Mississippi city on the map. Hannah Durkin, who manages the bureau's social media accounts, can use the wearable technology to take pictures and video, send email, etc. "By going around and taking pictures of things around town," she told the Natchez Democrat, "it gives visitors a chance to see Natchez through the first-person perspective." A visitors' bureau in Florida took a similar approach last fall, sending five people out to explore the beaches of Fort Meyers and Sanibel wearing Google Glass and then using their videos for a tourism marketing campaign.

Promoting tourism with apps: Like an increasing number of cities around the world, Cebu City in the Philippines has developed a smartphone app to promote local events, in particular its annual Sinulog Festival. The guide includes the story of the festival -- a religious and cultural event that culminates with a grand parade and street dancing -- as well as listings of places to stay during the Sinulog and various attractions from heritage tours to where to sample local cuisine. Similarly, the bilingual app Quebec is all about promoting tourism in the greater Quebec region of Canada. It showcases hotels, restaurants, shopping and events, but also provides important tourist information (how to get there, directions, location of the tourist information centers and public restrooms, regional descriptions and pictures). The Sinulog Festival and Quebec apps are among many tourism and economic development apps for smartphones featured in our Smart Cities Apps Gallery (free, one-time registration required).