Tourism app unveiled

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, June 10, 2017

A new smartphone app for residents and visitors wanting to explore Suffolk has been unveiled by Suffolk Tourism.

“Traipse,” a Virginia-born app that already existed in Staunton and Abingdon, came to Suffolk in May. It was developed by a Staunton resident who was inspired by the annual scavenger hunt in Washington, D.C., put on by the Washington Post.

“It was so much fun,” said Darren Smith, who first got the idea for Traipse eight or nine years ago but didn’t start working on it until a couple of years ago. “You can make puzzles out of a lot of things that are around all the time.”

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Suffolk’s version of Traipse features 84 stops arranged on four tours — for example, historical sites or dining hot spots. At each stop, users will get a challenge with a riddle or puzzle to solve.

“Most of the riddles can’t be found by Googling,” said Kevin Sary of Suffolk Tourism. “You have to actually be there.”

The riddles will unlock only if you’re physically present at the location. Some of the stops can be solved at any time of day; others are inside businesses and can only be solved when the business is open.

Once the riddle is solved, the user sees more facts about the location and, at local businesses, might even get a special deal, such as a certain amount off of their purchase. They get to rate the stop and share their finds on social media.

When users complete a tour, they will get a special code word to take to the Visitor Center for a goodie bag.

“The idea is to get people out and about, learning a little bit of history, engaging with businesses,” said Theresa Earles of Suffolk Tourism.

Sary said there are stops all over the city, including in Holland and Whaleyville.

Traipse can be done at a leisurely pace, in a group or in competition against others.

Sary said he discovered the app while attending a conference in Staunton and was immediately hooked. Smith, the developer, put together a test run for all of Suffolk’s tourism staff.

“It’s something that’s more technologically edgy,” Earles said. “We’re giving people yet another way to discover Suffolk.”

Sary said the app will be a good team-building activity for conferences and a way for out-of-town guests at weddings to while away the hours before the ceremony.

“We’re reaching the people that are already on their phones, which is pretty much everybody now,” Earles said.

The tourism department also hopes to be able to develop special tours for events like Taste of Suffolk and Peanut Fest.

The app is free to users and can be downloaded from Google Play or the app store.