Munzee Named 2014 Tourism Partner of the Year

5 Feb

Each year, the McKinney Convention & Visitors Bureau recognizes one of their tourism partners who has proven a dedication to the city of McKinney’s tourism efforts through bringing people to the city, working with the hotels to book rooms for their visitors, and working with the MCVB who supports these efforts. The MCVB presented their 2014 Tourism Partner of the Year award to the team at Munzee during the annual McKinney Chamber of Commerce Community Awards ceremony, held this year on Friday, Jan. 30.

The 2014 Tourism Partner of the Year Award was presented to Munzee by the McKinney CVB on Jan. 30, 2015.

The 2014 Tourism Partner of the Year Award was presented to Munzee by the McKinney CVB on Jan. 30, 2015.

The idea for Munzee, a global scavenger hunt app for Smartphone, was born in 2008 but technology to build it wasn’t available yet. In 2011, the geo-locational QR code game was finally launched in Texas – a game in which players scan hidden QR codes using GPS technology via their Smartphones.  In the company’s early days, most Munzee players and the games pieces – called “deployments” – were located in Germany and in Texas, California and Michigan.

In late 2013, the company, under the direction of a new president and vice president as well as one of the original founders, moved into a tiny second floor space over the Antique Company Mall on Virginia Street in downtown McKinney. They were busy developing new game pieces and strategies as well as growing the size of their team.

In Spring 2014, the Munzee team visited with the McKinney CVB staff for the first time.

“Rob (Vardeman) and TJ (Ogroske) came to discuss an event they wanted to hold in the fall and asked for our help,” said Dee-dee Guerra, Executive Director of the McKinney Convention & Visitors Bureau. “They immediately started sending visiting players to our Visitors Center. We were seeing several a week, and they even set up a business QR code for their visitors to scan here for a prize.”

Munzee guys

Munzee President Rob Vardeman and VP of Marketing TJ Ogroske

The team also took to traveling the globe, exposing players worldwide to McKinney. The Munzee map kept growing with deployments worldwide, as was the map of McKinney. Many deployments were placed here physically by people visiting McKinney, but even more deployments called “virtuals” were placed here by players from their homes in more than 100 countries.

The philanthropic-minded Munzee team also began creating special virtual pieces to raise funds and awareness for various charitable organizations.

  • Munzee’s first campaign raised more than $4,000 for Autism research.
  • Their second campaign that spring was for Ronald McDonald House Charities, bringing in more than $25,000 for that organization.
  • In response to the worldwide “Ice Bucket Challenge,” Munzee created virtual ice bucket pins for their players who in turn “packed McKinney in ice” from all over the world, raising $54,000 for ALS Research.
  • Now in February 2015, Munzee introduced candy conversation heart virtual pins to raise money for the American Heart Association.

As coverage of the Smartphone app grew, so did the company’s team, and in September of 2014, they moved to a larger office space on the downtown square. They also opened a convenience store called the Munzee Marketplace in the space formerly occupied by the Garret Art Gallery directly below their new offices.

As if opening new offices and a store during the City of McKinney’s largest annual event, Oktoberfest, wasn’t enough to take on, they also hosted their first big local event that weekend, the Munzee Headquarters Oktoberfest Bash and their A-munzing Race. This event brought more than 300 players to McKinney from countries including Denmark, Canada, and Lithuania as well as from multiple states. Many of these visitors stayed in McKinney for one or two weeks, taking in all the city has to offer.

“Our staff had the best time meeting and interacting with the Munzee players in town for this event,” Guerra said. “And these players were so excited to share with us what they liked about McKinney. For most of them, it was their first time in our city, and without exception, they all talked about wanting to come back here again soon.”

Now, just 3-1/2 years after the app first launched, the company’s latest figures help illustrate the impact the MCVB 2104 Tourism Partner of the Year has had on tourism worldwide, and here at their world headquarters in McKinney, Texas:

  • The Munzee app is played in 190 countries by more than 195,000 players worldwide.
  • There are more than 2.5 million Munzees deployed worldwide …and
  • There is at least 1 physical game piece deployed on every continent in the world, including Antarctica.

“The team at Munzee draws thousands of people to visit our city, and they continue each day to spread positive awareness of McKinney, Texas, to points around the world,Eventzee Logo” Guerra said. “The guys are such fun, so creative, and they thrive on interacting with their players as much as their players thrive on getting to meet them. The app also encourages people to get outside and explore the world around them. The Munzee team has such a firm grasp on what it means to be tourism ambassadors for our beautiful city.”

New App Just Released
And now an update to when this blog was originally written (Friday, Jan. 30): The team at Munzee launched a new app today called Eventzee, available for iPhone and Android platform Smartphones. This app features “events” involving photo scavenger hunts of every day things found in their players’ communities. Players snap photos with their phones of the items on the clue list and submit them for points. At the end of each event, some of the players will win prizes. Available from the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.

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