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Interactive online map aims to attract tourists

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 7:20 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

COLUMBIA — In an effort to catch up with the trend toward online trip planning, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau has published a new interactive map of the city’s attractions on its Web site, VisitColumbiaMO.com.

The map, which went online last Friday, is aimed at tourists and allows viewers to find locations within certain categories of interest, including dining, shopping and museums. Users can then click on the locations that interest them to find their location, phone, and Web site if available. The site also highlights recreation trails in the area, and will allow the Convention and Visitors Bureau to create individual maps tailored to special events.

Rhonda Kauffman, manager of marketing and communications for Destination Marketing Association International, said using maps is a useful way to bring information to tourists.

“Interactive maps provide potential visitors, meeting planners and residents the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a destination or event in a fun, inventive way,” she said. “Plus, it’s a great promotional tool that lets visitors customize their upcoming trip.”

Spencer Turner, a member of the Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board, said another goal is to attract even more tourists.

“Our whole goal is to get people to come and to stay a long time and spend a lot of money,” Turner said.

Lorah Steiner, executive director of the bureau, said tourism is a very large part of revenue in Columbia, adding that hotel revenue alone is over $80 million a year.

Steiner said the bureau recognizes that a growing number of people — about 70 percent — now plan their trips online.

“If someone is traveling, chances are they’re going to go to the Web for some part of their travel,” she said.

Turner said online planning is also the reason the bureau has been adding other types of interactivity to its Web site, which was launched about five years ago.

A lot of planning went into the map. A database had to be created involving the names, addresses, telephones and Web addresses of all involved sites.

The company that created the Web site, Map Network, has also produced maps for several other cities in the past, including St. Louis, Kansas City, New York and others. It will cost $8,000 to create the site and about $4,000 a year to maintain it.


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