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Funding sought for cell-phone tour of Bradenton

BRADENTON — Tapping into downtown Bradenton’s history will be just a cell phone call away if a new Realize Bradenton project comes to fruition.

Next week, the group will ask the city’s Downtown Development Authority to fund a $10,000 “Guide By Cell” technology project. It will allow residents and tourists to use their cell phones on a self-guided tour along the riverfront and through downtown Bradenton. All they have to do is follow signs placed throughout the area and dial away.

Jane Plitt, Realize Bradenton’s downtown revitalization and events task force committee chair, said it’s a unique and interactive way to showcase the area and attract more visitors to downtown.

“We want to link people back,” said Plitt. “It isn’t like this sign is going to do that in and of itself, to excite the community and visitors. But what we hope is that it’s going to be interesting.”

If funded, four signs will be placed along the riverwalk; five on surrounding streets. They will provide information on the area’s history, wildlife and even where the stars are aligned in the night sky. The signs also will feature trivia questions and a number to call for pre-recorded answers. Messages will be no longer than a minute, Plitt said. Trivia will include how the Green Bridge received its name and what kind of fish are swimming in the river.

Downtown businesses and cultural groups will be able to cash in on “Guide By Cell” tours by sending text message-discounts to tour users and advertise events, Plitt said.

The state-of-art cell phone technology will allow for the phone messages, as well as the signs, to be updated over time. In addition, Spanish and German speakers will be able to hear the messages in their native tongues, Plitt said.

Plitt also said the group will be able to track the number of calls the signs generate as well as where the callers are from to see if the project is a success.

“We’ll know which stops people are stopping at and spending the most time to listen to,” Plitt said.

Realize Bradenton is projecting the service will receive up to 350 calls a month.

“Guide by Cell” has caught on in several cities across the country that use it to highlight cultural stops. They include New York, Atlanta, Charlotte and more recently, Gainesville, which markets it through a brochure and a Web site — www.visitgaines villeandstay.com/Website cell/cellindex.html.

Gainesville has two popular cell phone tours with another in the works, according to Miriam Deckert, tourism marketer for the city. The city uses the tour for its historic districts and at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. So far, they have generated more than 2,200 calls combined in six months, Deckert said.

For tourists who may not have the money to pay a docent for a guided tour, this is the next best thing.

“I think it makes it kind of attractive to package,” Deckert said.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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