Almaguin eyes Driftscape mobile app to boost tourism

·4 min read

It may soon become a lot easier for tourists visiting the Almaguin Highlands to find points of interest if the communities decide to enter the world of Driftscape.

A number of Ontario communities, including North Bay, have bought into the Toronto-based company's mobile application, which allows users to know on their cellphone when they are at or nearby a point of interest.

The Almaguin Highlands regional recreation committee, which is made up of Burk's Falls, Sundridge/Strong, Magnetawan, Ryerson and Perry, is recommending to the respective town councils that they become involved with Driftscape.

Burk's Falls clerk Nicky Kunkel says the app is free for users and “it helps them plan their trip before they get here or they can just get (to Almaguin) and then go on the app.

“This is something very different from Google maps or Google itself,” Kunkel says.

“With Google, you have to look for the information. It doesn't spit it out for you. But Driftscape allows you to have it right on your phone with very little effort and it's very detailed. It will also have a lot more information than Google and we'll have links to businesses and their phone numbers.”

Kunkel says the information on the app is “reliable and accurate because we put the information in.”

The key is each community has to buy into the Driftscape app in order for the user to access the points of interest and events, she says.

Burk's Falls recreation coordinator Lacey Stevens says the town councils have two options – either to buy into the service individually or regionally.

“Regionally is a better bang for our buck,” Stevens says. “We'll get a lot more with the price we pay even though we're paying slightly more for it. Our goal is to go with Option 2, which is to get everyone in on it regionally.”

Kunkel says each municipality would start by entering 25 points of interest on the app.

“Each point of interest can have a picture, video or voice-over clip for that place,” she says. “You can also do tours, like if someone wants to travel between Burk's Falls and Magnetawan along Highway 520. Through the app you can drive the tour and stop at various places like artist studios.”

Stevens and Kunkel both hope more communities buy into Driftscape and opt for Option 2 because it allows for more points of interest.

While the first option costs a total of $1,788 a year, it caps the points of interest at 25 and only allows three administrative users to go into the app and change up the information it contains.

However, while Option 2 is considerably more expensive at $4,188 annually, it allows municipalities to put 75 points of interest on the app, it can accommodate five administrative users and has added features not available in the basic plan.

When the cost of the premium plan is spread across the six municipalities that are part of the regional recreation committee, Stevens says the dollar figure for each community falls considerably.

Also, the cost per municipality can be reduced even further if more communities in the Almaguin Highlands jump on board.

Kunkel says that's why the committee presented the concept to Almaguin Community Economic Development, which is the umbrella group that represents a total of 16 communities, including the six that fall under the regional recreation committee.

Other communities that make up ACED include South River, Powassan, Kearney and McMurrich Monteith.

“There's an opportunity here to celebrate the entire region of Almaguin,” Kunkel says. “We'd welcome anyone joining in.”

As town councils in Almaguin meet this month for their regular meetings, the regional recreation committee is hopeful they will discuss the Driftscape app and decide if they want to be part of the tourism initiative.

Kunkel says the goal is to move forward with the app “as soon as we can so it's ready for this tourist season.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget