Felicity Long
Felicity Long

InsightThe trajectory from websites -- remember when you felt ahead of the curve just having one? -- to social media has been an astonishingly rapid one. Nowadays it is not unusual to receive Facebook friend requests and Twitter followers from tourism boards and other entities in the travel industry.

And now that many of us are using smartphones, those messages are reaching us no matter where we are.

Another way travel companies are taking advantage of the popularity of the smartphones is through the explosion of travel apps, many of which are free or priced at just a few dollars.

For the record, a travel app can include bite-sized pieces of information that you can download onto your phone and that can include images, videos and maps. Some are linked to GPS technology, so that users can get directions and real-time information about destinations while on the go.

Some say travel apps may replace printed guidebooks altogether, but will they also replace guided tours? According to GPSmyCity, a Las Vegas-based iPhone software company, their e-guides take the worry out of exploring a new city without fear of getting lost while offering a level of independence a guided group or bus tour can't duplicate.

The company offers more than 2,000 walking tours in 180 cities with such intriguing topics as Casanova's Venice, Belgian Beer Tour in Brussels, Romantic Fountains of Rome and Vienna's Antique and Craft Shops.

The GPSmyCity's iPhone apps are priced from $2.99 to $4.99 per city. 

Switzerland Tourism has joined the app craze with a menu of new, complimentary travel apps designed with tech-savvy users in mind. There is a Swiss Hiker app; city guide apps for Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, Lucerne and Zurich; and a lake/swimming app for outdoor enthusiasts, among others.

The guides can be downloaded onto iPods, MP3 players, mobile phones and computers. 

The Monaco Government Tourist Office recently launched the Monaco iPhone travel guide app, complete with recommendations for itineraries, restaurants and events throughout the Principality. There also is a free Android version of the Monaco Travel Guide.

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