Imagine standing on the corner in Deadwood and pulling out your iPhone to scan a code on a historic marker. Up pops a photo showing how that same corner looked in the 1880s, transporting you back in time to the gold rush days.

That’s just one of the ways the iPhone — now available throughout the nation on Verizon and later this spring in South Dakota on AT&T – could enhance the visitor experience and boost the Black Hills tourism industry.

For both out-of-state tourists and South Dakota residents enjoying their own backyard, “When they’re able to bring the iPhones here, that’s going to be very beneficial for the tourism industry,” said Lee Harstad, marketing director for the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce. “More and more folks are going to have the smart-phone devices, which will enable us to do some very high-tech marketing.”

For example, the Black Hills, Badlands & Lakes Association, the regional tourism marketing group, is working to develop applications for both the iPhone and for smart phones with the Android platform that will provide driving directions to member attractions, using the phone’s GPS capabilities.

There also will be links to pictures, videos, coupons and other information about the attractions, said Greg Valladolid, digital media manager.

The app also will suggest day-trip itineraries for different types of travelers — for example, families with children or history buffs.

“It’ll pop in directions for you and you’ll be on your way,” he said.

“The functionality goes beyond, ‘it’s just a phone,’” Valladolid added. “It can act as your tour guide.”

Plus, because the device has a still camera, video camera and even the ability to sync with your Kindle e-book reader, it’s the only thing a tourist will need to carry. Travelers can leave the other cameras, maps, guidebooks and their paperback at home.

And tourists who take photos will be able to upload those directly to their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts — bragging to friends and family that they are on vacation in the Black Hills.

“I kind of like one device to do it all,” said Valladolid, who has an iPhone. “It’s kind of a business tool and a fun device all in one.”

Area attractions are looking forward to the new apps for the iPhone.

“The Black Hills, Badlands app is going to be great,” said Michele Slott at Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City. “It’s all right there in their hands.”

In another way to put iPhones to work for tourists, the winery is experimenting with QR codes, the bar codes that can be read by a smart phone, taking the user to a website. 

“We’re going to be working them into some of our advertising and displays,” she said. For example, a code in an ad by the baggage claim at the airport could take the user to a page describing how to make arrangements to ship bottles of wine home.

“You can speak more specifically to the needs of the market,” Slott said.

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Leira Janklow, sales and service representative for Black Hills, Badlands & Lakes, has ordered an iPhone through AT&T, and she said she will use it at home and at work.

“It’s not required” at work, she said, but as a salesperson, having the device right there in her hand will make it easier to show tourism industry customers how their ad, coupon or promotion would look on the iPhone.

Smart phones are a way to direct a promotion or coupon right at the person likely to be searching for and using that information.

“On the advertiser end, my gosh, that’s a really good deal because they’re right there in the palm of people’s hands,” Janklow said. “They don’t have to do anything extra.”

Having the iPhone available on Verizon around the country will open up new markets of tourists interested in getting information on these devices.

People who visit the Hills from cities where AT&T has been offering the iPhone for several years have been asking, “We have these phones — is there something we can do here?” Harstad said. Now, “we can have it here, we can test it, we can do these things and open up a whole other level of tourism experience.”

Harstad has just one regret about the new devices.

“I just wish I wouldn’t have gotten my (Android) phone last summer,” he said. “I wish I would have waited and gotten an iPhone.”

Contact Barbara Soderlin at 394-8417 or barbara.soderlin@rapidcityjournal.com

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