By PAIGE LaBARGE
Capital News Service
LANSING — This is not your father’s Michigan map.
A new smart phone application on the horizon is intended to boost tourism throughout the state.
The application, to be released this spring, incorporates QR codes, which will be printed on the new paper edition of the state map, said Dawn Garner, media services manager at the Department of Transportation (MDOT).
QR stands for quick response, Garner said, “They will be little graphics labeled on the map and this is what people will scan with their phones.”
Once a smart phone scans the code, interactive maps, travel information and scheduled events from that region will pop up on the screen, said Garner.
A Traverse City tourism official said he’s looking forward to the success of the project.
MDOT is partnering with Travel Michigan to discuss the design for the code on the maps, according to Garner.
“We’re experimenting with how the codes will look and the size of them,” Garner said. “The codes will most likely be 1-by-1 inch, and 10 to 15 codes will appear on the maps.”
Options for designs include images, business logos and web links.
“We don’t want the codes to be distracting on the maps, but appealing to the tourists,” Garner said. “The codes will also have a web address that links people directly to the Internet if they don’t have a smart phone.”
Kirk Steudle, the MDOT director, said it’s a new way to re-invent maps.
“QR codes will cover all travel places, and this will help to promote areas in the state or information on whatever interest the tourist has scanned,” Steudle said.
He said MDOT will continue to print traditional foldable maps as well.
Dave Lorenz, managing director at Travel Michigan, the state’s official tourism agency, said his office is working with MDOT to design codes for the new maps.
“Maps are an integral part of traveling,” Lorenz said.
Lorenz said many people still turn to traditional foldable maps, but a growing number use more technology to find information.
“Blending traditional maps with new technology will help in gaining a larger audience of tourists,” Lorenz said.
The QR codes will offer different interactive options, Lorenz said.
“For example, Pure Michigan’s logo will be a QR code, and once it’s scanned, the website will instantly pop up on the phone and advertise upcoming events or activities in specific areas,” Lorenz said. “MDOT’s will be similar, but their interactive options will advertise road delays to help travelers.”
Mike Norton, media relations director at the Traverse City Visitors Bureau, said QR codes are already used at local stores and restaurants.
“The code is printed on store windows and shows print advertisements and gives tours of the store,” Norton said. “Restaurants in the area are also using the codes to give tourists more interaction by showing menus.”
“We are very exciting for the codes to be included on the new maps and to see the potential of everything it can offer to the tourism industry,” Norton said.
Lorenz said the push for better technology is becoming a main factor in tourism.
“Tourists are expecting greater things from the industry to help them travel easier, and technology is the most accessible medium for people on the move,” Lorenz said. “Michigan will be among the first to use the codes in such an extensive way.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.
By PAIGE LaBARGE