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Site retooled for growing ranks of smartphone-wielding tourists

As early as next week, the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority will launch the latest addition to its “See yourself in the Smokies” campaign — a mobile website and a personalized QR code.

Currently, when people visit the county’s tourism website whether via a smart phone or computer, they are directed to the same place. However, within the next few weeks, the tourism agency expects to launch a new website especially designed for viewing on mobile phones. The website will contain similar information about what to do and where to stay in Haywood County, but its layout will be more phone friendly.

“We are definitely ahead of the curb on this one,” said Steve Duginske, interactive media and communications manager for the county tourism authority.

The mobile website will cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

For considerably less money, the tourism board has also purchased a QR, or quick response, code.

QR codes, like barcodes, can be scanned by someone’s phone and used to direct people to more information instead of typing in a web page address or using a search engine.

The board has place its personalized QR code on promotional posters, which will be distributed throughout the county. When someone scans the code with a cell phone, it will direct the person to a digital business card. From the site, people can quickly access the agency’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter account and contact information. The code costs the TDA $48 a year.

Duginske updated the tourism board on both projects at its meeting last week as part of a social media workshop. By 2014, mobile Internet usage will surpass desktop computer Internet usage, according to the presentation.

The agency maintains Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts, but it is also looking at expanding into other forms of social media, including FourSquare, Flickr and Instagram. FourSquare allows people to ‘check-in’ at specific locations, such as restaurants or hotels, and post reviews. Flickr and Instagram enable online photo sharing.

The agency also discussed a billboard shuffle to more directly tap the Atlanta market.

Haywood TDA will rent a new, lighted billboard on I-985 in the Atlanta area for $1,200 a month. It will split the cost and use of the new billboard with the Waynesville Inn and Cataloochee Ski Area. A billboard on U.S. 441 in Macon, the corridor traveled by tourists coming to WNC from the Atlanta area, will be dropped.