According to legend.

Those are magic words. They bring us back to childhood, that time of wonder, when the equally magical phrase “Once upon a time” teleported us from reality to the world of fantasy. “According to legend” has the same effect. It alerts your audience that they are about to hear a good story ~ maybe even a whopper ~ about stone ships and dragons, knights and patriots, villains, castles, and epic battles. And that’s OK. Sure ~ tourists want facts and figures, like knowing Abraham Lincoln’s memorial statue in Washington DC weighs 175 tons ~ a fact I mention in my smartphone tour of the DC memorials. But more importantly, I also mention that Lincoln was “a failure in business and henpecked by his wife.” Why? It’s his story ~ the human interest element that transcends time and technology.

Americans are great storytellers, but I sense we have yet to connect the dots between the stories of our places and economic vitality, that is, our fair share of the $6 Trillion tourism industry. My own city, Richmond, Virginia, is chock full of great stories, many of them untold or under-told. Far too often, to us an old civil war cannonball is just a cannonball. But “according to legend…” Let the magic begin. You are not lying. You are telling a story, and your audience is smart enough to know the difference.

Which brings me to…a story! In 2012, I took my 86 year old mother to Norway. She wanted to see the fjords. Our excellent cruise line, Hurtigruten, took us off-ship for day trips through some small Norwegian towns, including a town that had one, and only one, tourist attraction ~ a six foot statue of the maiden of the sea. I can still recall how the tour bus leaned as every passenger clamored for a picture of this statue ~ one we Americans would ignore if it were in our town. But the Norwegians, like many Europeans, have a tourist mentality. They know the secret of tourism success: Shine a light on just about anything, sprinkle it with perfume if you must, but tell its story and tell it well, and people will clamor for a look.

So before we get into the technical mechanics of building a smartphone tour for your location, let’s agree to keep first things first. When building a modern, technology based tourist infrastructure, it is critically important to keep this perspective: technology will come and go, but a good story will last forever.