A Charleston-based travel app that launched in the spring has expanded to include four more cities and has plans to add as many as 10 more in 2020.
Content for LGND, which is pronounced "legend" after the feature on a map that explains how to read it, is supplied by local guides who compile recommendations of what travelers should see, do, eat and drink while they're in town.
The app's users are matched with those local guides based on a questionnaire that asks the traveler's age, how often they travel and whether they're on a tight budget or want to splurge.
Founder Patrick Gallagher has described it as a mix between TripAdvisor and Match.com. Gallagher said the format is meant to cut down on the amount of content a person sifts through while planning a trip by delivering a set of recommendations that matches a user's preferences.
When Gallagher launched LGND in the spring, it only had guides to Charleston. Guides for Asheville and Nashville went live in October, and Savannah and Chicago were added the next month.
Gallagher said he's hoping to announce five more city launches by March or April and potentially five more later in the year for a total of 15 cities — triple the amount that's available on the app now.
"Our users said they're more interested having the free version for 50 more cities than a more enhanced version for five," he said.
Once a city has about 20 local guides, that destination is ready to launch, Gallagher said. LGND now has about 130 guides spread across five cities, so all the already-launched destinations have more than that minimum number of guides, he said.
Right now, LGND's website also lists Austin, Denver, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco as locations people can select when applying to be guides, in addition to the five cities available on the app.
Guides are paid a flat fee when they complete their recommendations which are divided into four categories: restaurants, bars and nightlife, things to do and things to know. Each suggestion includes some extra tips.
For example, some Savannah guides have included information about the city's open container laws, which allow pedestrians to carry to-go cups of alcohol around the historic downtown area. In restaurant and bar recommendations, guides often include happy hour drink deals and favorite food items.
In spring 2020, Gallagher said he'll also be preparing to raise a first round of fundraising for LGND that would support the expansion to 15 cities and would allow him to make some hires.
Around the same time, Gallagher said he'll be launching a second generation of the app that includes a map view of recommended sites so people can see what suggested places are nearby when they're walking around a city. Another new feature will allow users to directly book a reservation for a suggested restaurant through booking platforms like Resy and OpenTable.
The updated version will also include a revised questionnaire that asks users about dietary restrictions and what kind of "vibe" they enjoy while out.
The next annual statewide summit hosted by the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism will be in the state's biggest cash cow for the visitor industry: Myrtle Beach.
The location for the three-day Governor's Conference on Tourism and Travel alternates between the state's tourism hubs. Last year, it was held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. This time it will be at the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes from Feb. 17 to 19.
Programming will include an awards luncheon and an overview of the year in tourism from agency director Duane Parrish. Last year, he announced that the state's visitor sector had grown for the sixth consecutive year to become a $22.6 billion industry.
Breakout sessions will cover topics like the power of social media influencers, how the S.C. State Park Service is using virtual reality and what Brand USA — the national equivalent of destination marketing organizations such as Explore Charleston — has planned for the year ahead.