According to consumer research company, comScore, 80 percent of the U.S. population now owns a smartphone. Changing how people experience a destination, smartphones and the apps they run are rapidly becoming the go-to information gathering method for visitors to the San Juans.
Recognizing this trend, the Chambers of Commerce for Lopez, Orcas and San Juan have launched a visitors app called San Juan Islands Insider. The free app, funded by a San Juan County LTAC grant and developed by 468 Communications, gives users information about points of interest and rewards them for visiting places around the San Juans. Users collect points as they explore the islands and redeem those points for discounts on goods and services at participating Rewards locations.
Many points of interest around the San Juans have limited information available to the public. Visitors either never discover those places, or they don’t behave in a way that helps preserve some of the more sensitive areas around the islands. The San Juan Islands Insider app will help fill the gap by putting information in the format of choice for today’s tourist – mobile.
Robert S. Harrison, whose Island Wedding Photography business is a Rewards location in the app, said, “it’s an interesting way to promote responsible tourism while supporting local businesses.”
Because the app doesn’t rely on cell reception to work, visitors can get information on local destinations – even in the most connection-challenged locations.
Manda Goff, a tourist in the San Juans before moving here, used to get frustrated by the lack of cell reception as she explored the islands. “One aspect of this app that I love is that it makes information [about the San Juans] accessible,” she said. “It will provide a different quality of experience; I’m a big supporter of it.”
At launch there are more than 130 destinations in the app, including more than 70 island businesses offering visitors rewards ranging from espresso drinks to discounts on wildlife tours and hotel rooms. Businesses can choose to be simply highlighted on the map, a point collection location, or a place where people can redeem points for rewards. These Rewards locations can determine what kind of reward they offer visitors who redeem points.
Businesses interested in being included should contact their local Chamber. San Juan Islands Insider is a free download in the Apple App Store and Google Play.