QR Codes Debut at Fort Smith National Historic Site

In the printing and technology arena many people are aware that Arkansas is the first state to use QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) to place tourism and travel information into the public’s hands.  QR codes are also known as mobile tagging and are offering a new way to make print interactive.  They are simple to use.  You must have a smart phone to use the codes.  You can download free applications such as i-nigma, QR App, or Bee Tagg to your mobile device.  You simply open the application on your phone, scan the code and go to the site full of Arkansas travel information.  The URL address is saved in your phone’s history so that when you are traveling, or not at a computer, you can easily link into the information.  You no longer have to remember a difficult Web address or worry about typing in the wrong letter.  The department, working with our ad agencies, CJRW and Aristotle, introduced these codes into their advertising campaign in October 2009.  Since that time, the little square code has appeared in the 2010 Arkansas Tour Guide, the Arkansas State Parks Guide, the Arkansas Spring newspaper insert and in publications such as The Oxford American, Southern Living, and National Geographic Traveler.
During the March 2010 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism, I along with Marla Johnson Norris from Aristotle (and a cameo appearance by Paul Strack of Custom XM Printing) presented four breakout sessions on mobile marketing and social networking.  As part of the programs we explained how the Arkansas Tourism is using these codes. 


Since that time, several cities such as Van Buren, Arkansas and Fort Smith, Arkansas have incorporated the codes into their marketing programs.  Several businesses including Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa are using them as well.  Raimondo Winery of Mountain Home has even put a QR code on their wine label.  Once scanned, this code takes you to their mobi site which provides wine pairing information along with the history of the winery.
Last week, I was excited to receive an email from Jennifer Boulden, communcations manager for the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau that Fort Smith would be the first National Historic Site to use QR codes for park interpretation.  The following is information we released this month in the Arkansas Industry Insider newsletter:
The Fort Smith National Historic Site has begun using Quick Response (QR) Codes on waysides for improved interpretation, giving visitors access to a three-minute orientation video.

Superintendent Bill Black said after learning about QR Codes at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in March, he contacted the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission and received assistance to get started. Black, who thinks the Fort Smith site is the first National Park facility to use the technology, shared his idea with his regional director in hopes that other sites could do the same thing.

“One of the shortcomings of waysides is that you are constrained on the number of words and visuals you can place on them,” Black said. “By using the QR Code system, visitors can access a video which provides them with more details and instructions than we could ever place on a wayside. The message is available 24/7 and can be used anywhere that smart phones get reception.”

Since QR Codes are still fairly new in the United States, Black said his staff placed a message underneath the design to alert visitors that they can see a short orientation video by opening it.

Black said there are several advantages to using QR Codes:
• The cost is minimal.
• The codes can be done entirely in-house.
• The learning curve to install them is minimal.
• The opportunities are limitless.
• The visitor is in charge of the experience.
• YouTube allows you easy tracking for how many people have viewed each message.

I encourage you to visit this wonderful historic site in Fort Smith and keep your eye our for Arkansas QR codes.  They will take to to a world, or should I say, state of information while your are on the go!
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