CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Just in time for the summer season, South Carolina, which launched one of the nation's first state tourism websites two decades ago, has given its site a $500,000 overhaul.
The new site is more interactive — suggesting activities based on visitor responses, allowing visitors to build their own vacation itineraries and can be translated into 80 languages.
The site, which went online last month at the same address of http://discoversouthcarolina.com , helps the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism draw travelers to South Carolina where tourism is an $18 billion a year industry.
"The website is our primary means of engaging with the consumer," said department director Duane Parrish. "Their expectations for quicker searchers and more relevant information have grown exponentially."
Department spokesman Marion Edmonds said South Carolina was one of the first states in the nation to launch a tourism website back in the 1990s. That was a time when sites were static and not a whole lot more than the contents of a tourism brochure put online.
"Traditionally the individual had to work their way through the pages and try to figure out exactly what they wanted," he said, adding it wasn't much different than thumbing through a paper brochure.
The revamped site is more like the sites of major retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble that suggest items based on what the visitors has already looked at. Edmonds said it's the biggest overhaul since the department went online.
"People will notice they are getting quicker searches and more relevant information," he said. "The site is going to be listening and responding to what it sees you request."
The $500,000 is part of the department's $12 million advertising budget.
Between January and June, the department's existing website had 1.8 million visitors — up 20 percent from the same period last year. Edmonds is expecting even more traffic to the new site.
A look at what the site now features:
RESPONSIVE WEB DESIGN
The site senses what mobile device a visitor is using and reformats material to fit the screen. There's no need for a separate mobile site.
Visitors can map trips from drop-down menus listing attractions, lodging, restaurants and the like. The planner provides drive times between locations and allows visitors to print out their itineraries.
Visitors will be able to share their experiences with friends through Facebook and other social media links on the site.
The site offers content in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German. And it incorporates Google Translate, which can translate content into any one of 80 languages.
Visitors will still be able to view the existing online vacation guide, and download copies of the state's festival calendar and BBQ Trail Map.