It looks like 2012 will be a record-setting year for tourism in Pinellas County. The question now is how to top it, and attract even more visitors.
Tourism promoters see some answers in how they communicate out-of-towners, and there's a big focus leveraging mobile websites.
At John's Pass Village, we talked to a newly-wed couple visiting here from Delaware. They showed us how they are navigating Pinellas County – on their smartphones.
"You click on it and it'll tell the address, the phone number, the directions," Andrea Lowe pointed out, talking about attractions she was looking up. "Otherwise, we have that paper that they gave us at the hotel, but you can't see the menus, you can't see where they are."
That explains a big change by Pinellas's monster-sized tourism industry. The traditional visitors' guide is going to become a glossy magazine without the endless lists of hotels and attractions and restaurants.
"All these other things that people, you know research has proved that they go to the web for this information, what they want from the visitor guide is a reason to come here," explained David Downing, with the Pinellas Tourism Bureau.
But even how we use the Internet is changing. By 2014, some experts predict desktops will become the minority, compared to tablets and smart phones. So Pinellas already has different websites for different devices.
Downing shows us one website on a desktop.
"When you compare it to that one for example, we have big beautiful pictures to draw people in, because this was how websites were built, this is the original landing platform. Today, they're going away from this, they're going to this," he says, referring to a website on his smartphone.
There is still some demand for paper visitors' guides.
"I still use them, yes I do, and I use them for the coupons, the information to see what's new in the area when we come back," said Karen Needham, a visitor from Iowa.
But by definition, travelers are mobile, and nearly all of them carry mobile devices. We're told the typical planner for a Pinellas vacation is a woman in her 40s who is very tech savvy and web-enabled. The trick is making the information they seek easy to find.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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