Gone are the days when the average tourist wandered around with a paper map in one hand and a camera around their neck. Thanks to smartphones, these travelers can carry a world of maps and their trusty camera right in their back pocket. But for those popular attractions and tourist destinations that recognize this change in behavior, mobile devices have the ability to engage visitors in an entirely new way.For Rio De Janeiro, QR codes have literally become part of the landscape. Those who visit have begun to see QR codes embedded in the traditional mosaic sidewalks of Brazil's second largest city. The black and white tiles, when scanned with a smartphone, provide tourists with local maps and relevant information about its famous beaches, vistas, and historic landmarks, allowing tourists to learn about where they are and determine where they're going. Visitors can also note their language preferences, choosing to receive their information in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. Rio De Janeiro, which plays host to two million tourists each year, plans to embed nearly 30 QR codes throughout the city.
In many instances, QR codes are plentiful, yet engagement is rare. Consumers can find codes on the label of their favorite condiments, or the pages of a magazine, yet they typically direct users to nothing more than the company's general website. By putting QR codes in a position to educate users, the travel industry has an opportunity to breathe new life into this waning technology. While I'm not the type to condone smartphone usage on vacation, as we all need to (and deserve to) disconnect entirely now and then, these embedded QR codes blend technology and tourism in ways that simply make sense. With interactive maps and fun facts, these QR codes have the potential to facilitate a smooth, entertaining journey that, through word of mouth, may boost tourism even more.