Case Study

Destination Salem Leverages Smartphone Tour and GPS Mapper

self-guided tour


Destination Salem is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Salem, Massachusetts as a premier travel destination known for its rich history, vibrant arts scene, and captivating maritime heritage. In their initiative to enhance the visitor experience, Destination Salem discovered Engage by Cell, a leading provider of self-guided tour solutions. Communications & Marketing Manager Kathryn Horrigan shares, “Heritage trail needed some modernization. It was inaccessible in a lot of ways, there were no plaques, and no signage indicating historic sites. We needed to engage people with public history in a way that is accessible and easy for everyone.” 

The Challenge

Salem's main focus was supplementing the Heritage Trail, a historic walking trail, to help visitors experience Salem and navigate the downtown district through a self-guided tour. The organization faced these main challenges:

  1. Navigation & Mobility: Wayfinding is a constant need for the city, for both visitor convenience and crowd control. Horrigan explains, “The heritage trail and the mobile site act as a way to spread people through Salem and move them out of Essex Street. It takes you to the waterfront, or historic Chestnut Street, and breaks up the clumps of mass tourism that are detrimental to the city.”
  2. Equitability: Horrigan explains, “The city council and the mayor are invested in the process that gives people equitable tourism.” The city has increased efforts to provide touring options to visitors in all economic brackets.
  3. Education: Providing accurate and engaging historical and cultural information about the city's landmarks and attractions without having to add additional signage or handouts that would turn into more trash.
  4. Diverse Audience: Catering to a wide range of visitors with varying interests and knowledge about Salem's history and attractions.

The Solution

Destination Salem turned to Engage by Cell to create a self-guided tour through a custom mobile web app that did not require downloads, and had wayfinding capabilities. Horrigan explains their decision stating, “We have an app, but we wanted a website with the QR code.” The mobile website is accessible through a QR code or link. The app includes four main categories: general information, a GPS trail map, site information, and trail themes.

Engage by Cell’s GPS Mapper enables visitors to navigate the Heritage Trail and surrounding areas with ease. The map displayed their real-time location and highlighted nearby points of interest. Each highlighted point can be tapped, giving the user a popup with more information. Each site popup features multimedia content including audio guides, images, and PDFs. Visitors can scroll through historical and modern-day images and choose to listen or read more about the site’s history and current state.

The self-guided tour encompasses several themes, each pertaining to select sites in the city. The app allows you to choose a theme you wish to learn more about and highlights all relevant sites. Themes include Maritime, African American Heritage, Colonial, Literary, Witch Trials, and More.


Launching in September of 2022, Engage by Cell’s Smartphone Tour and GPS Mapper tools significantly improved the visitor experience for Destination Salem. Key results included:

  1. Positive Feedback: Since its launch, the app has had approximately 10,000 visitors and received glowing reviews on its user-friendly interface and interesting content. Since its launch at the visitors center, the tool was quickly adopted by city hall, the chamber of commerce, and local businesses.
  2. Enhanced Accessibility: By providing a cloud-based app accessible on any web browser, the app automatically conforms to each user's accessibility settings. Its content provides both visual and audio touring opportunities for those with sensory disabilities. The tool is provided free of charge to any visitors.
  3. Business Growth: Horrigan explains, “It's a business tool, it takes you to burrows. It connected our commerce in a way we didn't expect it to do.” The map will often show visitors places they may not have ventured to before, providing more traffic for local businesses and encouraging visitors to move through the city.
  4. Tour Customization: The ability to choose from various tours based on their interests allowed visitors to tailor their experiences to their preferences.
  5. Reduced Environmental Impact: The move away from paper maps contributed to Destination Salem's sustainability goals.


Destination Salem successfully leveraged Engage by Cell’s self-guided tour tools to create an accessible and informative visitor resource. The success of this partnership highlights the potential of technology to enhance tourism and provide memorable visitor experiences that align with larger city initiatives.

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