February 10, 2009 By News Report
Portland, Ore., has become the first U.S. city to launch an official "Twisitor Center." This cyber-style cousin to the more traditional walk-in visitor information center relies on Twitter technology to connect travelers with those who can answer their questions and help plan their trips. (Twitter is a free social-networking service that allows subscribers to send and receive short, real-time updates, messages and questions.)
"Other cities are connecting with visitors through Twitter," explained Martin Stoll, CEO of GoSeeTell Network, the company that created Portland's Twisitor Center concept. "But Portland is the first city to set up a virtual visitor center to which people can direct travel questions just by adding a simple tag to their tweets [messages]."
Twitter users seeking information on Portland can add #inpdx to their questions. Tweets tagged with this code (also called a "hash tag") are sought out by Twisitor Center staff members who then send back suggestions. But the beauty of Twitter is that other users who aren't affiliated with Travel Portland can also chime in with additional tips. So, if a traveler tweets "Need a good BBQ place in Portland #inpdx," she could end up with suggestions from not only the Twisitor Center but also from anyone else -- Portland residents, foodies, fellow travelers -- in the Twitter community.
"With Twitter we can be more conversational and responsive," said Jeff Miller, Travel Portland's president and CEO. "And this is how a lot of people make travel and entertainment decisions these days. Twitter lets us talk to travelers who prefer social networking and who wouldn't normally visit an official travel Web site."
In addition to responding to questions from visitors, Travel Portland's Twitter stream will include several proactive tweets per day, covering such pre-defined topics as dining, green travel, special deals and recreation.
Because Twitter is relatively new to many travelers, Travel Portland's Web site features a Twitter page that explains the service and connects to Twitter in Plain English, a two-minute video that covers the basics. The page also links to Travel Portland's Twitter stream, where visitors can see what others are tweeting about and sign up to "follow" Travel Portland.
The Twisitor Center is one of several online initiatives that Travel Portland is undertaking. Another among these is GoSeePortland, a social-networking Web site where Portland residents and visitors share tips, ratings and reviews -- as well as get customized travel recommendations. GoSeePortland launched in 2008.
Travel Portland is the official destination marketing organization for Portland and the Greater Portland Region. Its mission is to strengthen the local economy by marketing the metropolitan Portland area as a preferred destination for meetings, conventions and leisure travel.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.