Titanic Tour App Sets Sail

My Tour Talk give visitors a digital experience in the famous ship's centenary year

By 2020, communications specialists believe that smartphones will be universal. Regardless of whether it is Apple, Android or Samsung who dominate the market, the point is that if you have a phone it will be a smartphone. And what people with smartphones want is content.

‘Smartphone users don’t want pamphlets,' confirms Julie McNeice, managing director of digital audio tour service, My Tour Talk. 'They expect to get information in the multi-media formats they are now accustomed to.'

History buffs fascinated with the story of how Titanic was built in Belfast's Harland and Wolff ship yard will soon be able to experience that story digitally when My Tour Talk launch their forthcoming Titanic Tour app. 

McNeice began her career in mobile telecommunications. After working as a consultant for venture capitalists in Barcelona and South Africa, however, she realized how content and technology could be married to create the ultimate visitor experience.

She launched My Tour Talk in 2010, and has since developed a series of audio tours relating to prime Northern Irish tourist spots, such as Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Mussenden Temple, Mountstewart and Dunluce Castle.

My Tour Talk's Titanic app is being funded by the Creative Industries Innovation Fund. ‘I won’t say we wouldn’t have done it otherwise,’ McNeice says. ‘But getting CIIF allowed us to deliver an exceptional visitor concept that coincides with the 2012 centenary.’

CIIF is administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and is supported by Northern Ireland Screen and Digital Circle. Watch video interviews with former CIFF recipients for more information.

My Tour Talk were given a grant of £10,000 to develop the app. It uses My Tour Talk’s bespoke, award-winning app platform, created for a 2011 NITB and DETI funded UK-wide competition, and slots in new, site-specific content.

This content includes an interactive map and a scripted, professionally voiced tour that adds a bit of ‘craic’ to the experience, says McNeice. 'It is all about giving the visitor a really good, informative day out without taking itself too seriously.

‘It is a walking tour that takes you from point to point in the Titanic Quarter and past key attractions [such as City Hall and the Thompson Graving Dock],’ McNeice adds. ‘It uses the same style and format as our other apps, giving you a very authentic Belfast experience.’

The app also uses geo-located, geo-tagged directories to include other local service providers. It certainly sounds impressive, but what it means on the user end is that every attraction – hotel, arts venue and café – can be found in list format or pin-pointed on a map.

That cross over might sound counter-productive – surely you would want tourists to stick to your product – but McNeice says it is a win-win situation. ‘The visitors get a really nice experience. The other attractions and tours get people to stay around longer, spend more money and repeat their visits, and the different service providers co-promote us.’

The format of the tour is tried and tested. It is the same structure My Talk Tour they used for their Northern Ireland Driving Tours and to enhance the Causeway Coastal driving route for the NI Environment Agency. McNeice, however, thinks that there is a particular synergy between their way of doing things and the Titanic app.

‘There is a nice marriage between the old and the new,’ she says. ‘All that innovation that built the Titanic and the Olympic, that innovative character is still here. It is represented by this leading edge technology that is being used to tell the story of the ship building industry. It is a great way of enhancing the tourism product.’

With the number of tourism apps growing rapidly, and globally, McNeice believes that there is no turning back for the tourist industry. No standing still either. Sustainability, both in terms of content and technology, is important, something, she notes, that the tourism industry is only beginning to come to terms with.

My Tour Talk has a two-year plan in place to enhance their current platforms as well as developing new ones. For now, though, McNeice believes the Titanic app – which will launch in March 2012 to coincide with the opening of the Titanic Belfast visitor centre – is an innovative, authentic addition to the digital world.

My Tour Talk apps can be found through Twitter and Facebook. The Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF) guidelines and application form can be accessed at www.artscouncil-ni.org/award/innovation.html