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Michigan-Built Online Tool Boosts Tourism, Economic Development

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A screenshot of Map-N-Tour Inc.'s tour map of Detroit's Eastern Market.

A screenshot of Map-N-Tour Inc.’s tour map of Detroit’s Eastern Market.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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MIDLAND (WWJ) – A husband-and-wife team of IT and map enthusiasts has combined the two into an online tool that gives users an easy and compelling way to share stories on a map.

Map-N-Tour Inc.’s application is being used by tourism groups, tourism business owners, local historical groups, economic development officials and others to create maps that feature engaging details, content, pictures and more.

Founders Kevin and Denny Henson were ideally suited to create Map-N-Tour. Kevin Harrison is a former earth sciences teacher who later became a consultant to the medical imaging industry. Denny worked as a project manager for a company that did online litigation support for Dow Chemical Co. Together, they created the tool while spending seven months hiking the Mormon Battalion Trail from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego Calif., as a way to share their adventure online.

The first version of Map-N-Tour was rolled out in 2006, and the latest version hit the market a year ago. It’s a cloud based content management system that allows people to tell stories on a map — a maplike presentation with icons that users can click on for more information. It’s available for both computers and mobile devices.

“It is much more of a virtual experience than just visiting a website or looking at printed materials,” said Denny Henson, who is CEO of the company.”People get to be part of the adventure. Be it the view from a kayak paddling around famous Turnip Rock, the challenge ahead from one of Michigan’s beautiful golf courses, or even the inside of a historic home on a virtual tour from the Bay County Historical Society, users are a part of the scene.”

Map-N-Tour allows users to create custom, interactive 3D maps and geo-locate all types of web content and media inside information “bubbles.” Automated tours from tourism groups, festivals, events and destination venues can reach out to potential visitors and give them a more true-to-life, engaging experience from their computers, tablets or smart phones, helping them to make travel destination decisions, enrich experiences during their trip and reminisce about visits they’ve made.

The proprietary Map-N-Tour tool is being used by customers nationwide. The company won the 2013 Silver Excellence in Economic Development Award in new media from the International Economic Development Council and 2012 “Best Small Business Award” from the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center.

To check out a tour of paddling, biking and hiking trails in Port Austin at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb, visit  www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=394#, a tour created by Chris Boyle, owner of a Port Austin kayak shop. There’s a kayak trip around Turnip Rock by the same person at http://www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=394&p=138892 and a tour of Port Austin at http://mapntour.com/viewer.php?t=147&hideNav.

“For years I have been trying to figure out the best way to market kayaking trails using maps, pictures and video in the Port Austin area,” Boyle said. “Map-N-Tour provided the perfect format. After seeing the virtual tours in action, I thought, why stop at kayaking? Last year we started an outdoor adventure camp for kids. Why not highlight all the great outdoor adventures in the area and make it easy to get families outdoors and on an adventure? My goal when creating the virtual tour was to promote Port Austin as a great place to take a family vacation and get outdoors.”

Denny Henson also produced an Eastern Market map tour as a sample for a tourism conference. It’s available at http://www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=374&p=63473.

And Ron Bloomfield, director of the Bay City Historical Society, produced a historic homes tour of his city at http://www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=144&p=32387.

There’s also a walking tour of historic sites in Traverse City, produced by the local historical society and schoolchildren at http://www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=319&p=62260.

As for economic development applications, there’s one for Midland at http://www.tourmidland.com and another for Chippewa County, Wisconsin at http://www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=353&p=62928 and http://www.chippewa-wi.com/index.php/virtual-tour.html. The tool also integrates with GIS data — see http://www.chippewa-wi.com/index.php/mapntour-property-map.html and http://www.mapntour.com/viewer.php?c=353&p=138871

Map-N-Tour’s revenues are generated by a setup fee for the tool and monthly maintenance charges.

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