Luring people back to the region’s tourism attractions needn’t be a tedious task. The Municipality of South Dundas proved earlier this year when its new tourism app took top honours in the social media/app marketing category at the Economic Development Association of Canada (EDAC) virtual awards ceremony.
The “Tourism Pursuit App” functions much like a game and can be downloaded for free at SouthDundas.com. To use it, open the app, go to the chosen location and find the sign with a QR code. Next, open the scanner that is part of the app and scan the code to obtain a badge. The badge pops up, spins around and plays music. A visitor who gets 20 badges receives a virtual golden coin.
“It’s really cool, very innovative, but fun,” says South Dundas economic development officer Rob Hunter.
At some locations, users may be prompted to play a mini-game, such as a fishing game near the water.
“We wanted people to visit our tourism locations, to do it safely and have fun,” adds Hunter. “In COVID, people were down, feeling isolated, and this was something to do to get out of their homes.”
This year’s version of the app leads to 25 locations in South Dundas. “We’ve got the Seaway Locks at Iroquois, Upper Canada Village, a local winery, Dentz Orchard, Smyth’s Apples, Upper Canada Creamery, public beaches and other places featured on the app,” Hunter explains. The app is easy to use and works with Google Play and Apple.
The idea for the app came from the township’s tourism advisory committee, just as COVID restrictions were taking hold in 2020.
“We thought it would be cool to do because people are doing tourism using cell phones instead of going to traditional outlets to gather pamphlets and maps,” Hunter says. The committee noted that a smartphone is what most people use for tourism now. “So we were looking for something fun and educational and a way to get people around the municipality in a safe manner.”
The municipality decided to approach St. Lawrence College, where Hunter is a board member. He called the president and CEO of the college, Glenn Vollebregt, who connected him to game programming professor James Dupuis.
Dupuis and seven students looked at various ways to connect tourists to the region.
“I have to say part of our value-added college is experiential learning and that’s part of why we’re excited about this,” says Vollebregt. “This was a perfect opportunity to take what (students) learned in their studies and create a real-world application.”
Vollebregt praised the students and their professor as well as the municipality for all their original ideas and work.
“I’m thrilled,” Vollebregt says, “both for South Dundas and for our faculty and students. Winning this award is a fantastic way to have some recognition for the great work that they did.”
“Council is proud that South Dundas has been recognized for this award,” says Mayor Steven Byvelds. “The project took tremendous effort from all of those involved. Everyone pulled together in partnership during this project to provide both South Dundas residents and our visitors with a very unique way to experience tourism in the municipality.”
Hunter says the township has had an incredible response to the app because it’s fun and tourism-based. “When you parcel all these things together, that’s why EDAC saw that as something that checks every box … it accomplishes a lot by getting people around.”
Hunter adds, “Given EDAC is a national association, the awards competition is extremely competitive. Winning this award is a real honour for our municipality.”