Beaufort News

Heading to Hilton Head? The chamber has an app for that

ket--Kathy Deringer, left, an exhibitor with St. Joseph's/Candler Health System, gets a preview of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce's new mobile phone application at the Biz Expo earlier this month. Showing off the new service, which will deliver tourist information and special offers to some smart phone-wielding Hilton Head visitors by Feb. 15, are Joy Sharp, center, and Kathy Winings, of the chamber's Visitor & Convention Bureau.
ket--Kathy Deringer, left, an exhibitor with St. Joseph's/Candler Health System, gets a preview of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce's new mobile phone application at the Biz Expo earlier this month. Showing off the new service, which will deliver tourist information and special offers to some smart phone-wielding Hilton Head visitors by Feb. 15, are Joy Sharp, center, and Kathy Winings, of the chamber's Visitor & Convention Bureau. Jay Karr / The Island Packet

Visiting the Hilton Head Island area? Soon there will be an app for that.

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce is developing a mobile-phone application to help travelers plan and make the most of their visits.

Chamber officials expect to launch the app for iPhone and iPad in February and for Blackberry and Android devices in March.

They say travelers can use it to find businesses and events they otherwise would have missed. For example, a foursome leaving a golf course could search for a nearby place to eat lunch, or a group finishing dinner could find a music venue where they could continue an evening on the town.

The app also will allow users to share their favorite finds with friends and family via text message before or during a trip.

Chamber officials are loading basic information about tourism-related businesses, and business owners can customize their listings for free by adding videos, photos, special offers and other features.

As use of Internet-equipped smart phones proliferates, local businesses and tourism marketers need to hook consumers "where the fish are biting," said Susan Thomas, vice president of the chamber's Visitor & Convention Bureau.

That means reaching people on mobile devices, something savvy travelers are coming to expect, Thomas said.

"We've got to be in that space with our destination and with our message," she said.

Chamber officials say they decided to pursue an app about six months before they presented plans to town officials in April.

They developed it with Mobilaurus, a Boston business that says it has helped restaurants, tourism groups, universities and other businesses use mobile technology.

The chamber paid Mobilaurus $35,000, two-thirds of which came from town accommodations taxes levied on overnight lodging. The remaining third came from a state grant.

Chamber officials expect that investment to be repaid by increased visitor spending within a year.

"That screen is the wave of the future," chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark said.

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