Stratford is a city of 32,000 at the center of a rural Canadian county 2 hour’s drive from Toronto. Its largest employer is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, a seasonal business that attracts cultural tourists from a large market. To leverage its value, Stratford’s City Council and the local business community created a public-private Stratford Tourism Alliance.
The Alliance launched online and traditional advertising campaigns to make Stratford a destination for “foodies” and cultural tourists. From 2009 to 2010, the Alliance’s Web traffic grew 200% while Ontario Tourism’s traffic fell 18% in the financial crisis. More than half of all leisure travelers carry smartphones, and the Alliance introduced a mobile site in 2010 and mobile versions of its “Savor Stratford” Foodies and Festival campaigns. Apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry followed in 2011, which provided everything from reservations for hotels and restaurants to schedules of events and augmented reality. A set of walking tours of Stratford’s many heritage buildings uses signs with QR codes to play 2-3 minute audio clips describing the history of each location.
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