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Rethinking Welcome (Visitor Information) Centers - New Guidelines


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Carolyn Childs presented her findings of a recent study and analysis of available research at the 2016 Travel and Tourism Research Association International Conference in Vail, Colorado.
In this presentation she talks about the challenges and critical success factors for mobile and pop-up Welcome / Visitor information Centers.

Published in: Travel

Rethinking Welcome (Visitor Information) Centers - New Guidelines

  1. 1. ©® 2014 Client: Prepared by: Date: Best practice in Visitor Information Centres (VICs) TTRA International Conference Carolyn Childs June 2016
  2. 2. Page 2 Outline 1 The challenge 2 The process 3 The building blocks: critical success factors for VICs overall 4 Critical success factors for Mobiles and Pop Ups 5 The solution and learnings
  3. 3. Page 3 The challenge • Based on projects we did for 2 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Australia (similar to counties) Source: Eurobodalla VIC Service Review Report Challenge 1: Between 5-14% of Eurobodalla’s visitors use the VIC A poor ROI on the two thirds of council budget required to service them Opportunity cost of investing in digital which is growing Challenge 2: An LGA facing cost pressures and under-utilised assets wishes to co-locate its Entertainment Centre box office and main VIC Currently only 5% of visitors use any of the VICs Set against the background of a major state government funding review
  4. 4. Page 4 The process Project 1 Project 2 Desk Research ✔ ✔ Customer/stakeholder survey ✔ Expert consultation ✔ Staff workshops ✔ Immersion ✔ Industry workshops ✔ Some key facts • 1,200+ pages of evidence reviewed from around the world – including both qualitative and quantitative • Looked beyond VICs to Retail, Financial Services, Government, Aviation • Input from TTRA LISTSERV – Thank you!! Everyone was encouraged to participate – with flexibility on how
  5. 5. Page 5 5 critical success factors for a VIC Location Stakeholder Mix ExperienceBranding Integration
  6. 6. Page 6 More on the success factors Location Fish where the fish are A destination in its own right Strong retail offer Absence of digital alternatives Don’t think this means you shouldn’t do wifi
  7. 7. Page 7 More on the success factors Stakeholder Mix Supportive locals Supportive industry Visitor Profile Match of opening hours to visitor mix Quoted in the WA Haeberlin study
  8. 8. Page 8 More on the success factors Quality of experience “Stories you can’t get anywhere else” The Bestpertise Multi-modal and flexible Get the basics right Somewhere you want to be (destination)
  9. 9. Page 9 Getting the basics right Source: Roger Brooks International “We got so fed up of people only popping in to use the toilet that we put the information we wanted them to see in the restrooms. It works” Tracey Overgard, Calgary in conversation on VICs
  10. 10. Page 10 More on the success factors Branding & Integration Know what it is What i am i? Warm and welcoming language Consistent branding at all touchpoints The touchpoints work together Beyond jurisdictions
  11. 11. Page 11 Key takeouts on overall success factors • Users of VICs continue to spend more • Know correlation, but no evidence of causation  means risk to close • Evidence you can reach new audiences Evidence of value, no evidence to support losing • No one size fits all and the precise solution you adopt is particular to your circumstances • Need to take time to consider all the details – be granular Although the principles are common, you’re unique • We used the model developed by Haeberlin Consulting for Western Australia Identified the very specific one which met clients needs
  12. 12. Page 12 East of England did an examination of different models. Is it the case that “All happy VICs are happy in the same way, but unhappy ones are unhappy in different ways”? Need to follow the rules but reflect them through our own circumstances Service diversification e.g. Co- locate with disability services Opening up more of a VICs historic house location to visitors increased footfall, created new product opportunities and enabled better staff utilisation on fun stuff (ghost tours) Downsizing within property and subletting reduced overheads and created a revenue stream to use the small space more innovatively Close existing visitor centre and relocating to an iconic attraction (a racing circuit) improved the efficiency of its asset utilisation and provided visitors a reason to detour Outsourcing to another tourism body to run the service reduces overheads and creates an incentive to drive up revenues – but only over time
  13. 13. Page 13 Most people continue to do a mix of offline and online – North Carolina, US is well recognised and has an imaginative mix Warm and friendly wording Work with other agencies for greater benefit Tell stories Build commitment to the Visitor Economy
  14. 14. Page 14 Case studies of new models in action Wollongong’s Mobile Visitor Centre reaches out to a new audience Melton reoriented its visitor strategy to co-location and pop ups – saving money and reaching more people Sources: Wollongong Tourism Tenille Bradley, Visitor Servicing presentation, ARTN 2014
  15. 15. Page 15 Case studies of new models in action Minstead, Hampshire (UK) enables a small village to have a VIC by outsourcing to a combined post office and tea rooms Footfall is further driven by participation in the Community Toilet scheme and a water top up point – in our view a genius idea for driving footfall
  16. 16. Page 16 We looked at experiments in bold new ways to engage and inform customers – the bar is lifting all the time. http://www.futuretravelexperien wayfinding/page/3/
  17. 17. Page 17 We looked carefully at the specifics
  18. 18. Page 18 We looked at what sort of model we should be moving to Source : Future of Visitor Centres in WA – Full Report, Haeberlin Consulting 2014 Destination NSW
  19. 19. Page 19 Our proposed solution – an ecosystem to attract, engage and inform visitors Council provides Council enables Visitor Contact Centre 1800 Phone numberLive Chat Ideally these would operate after 5pm at least Thu-Sat perhaps via use of volunteer staff Training & accreditation support Product racking, wifi and digital access at Moruya Library Outsourced Visitor Engagement Centre New Batemans Bay site Outsourced Visitor Engagement Centre Current Narooma Digital Engagement and contact centre Mobile web Main website Social media White label booking service Performance metrics to amend and improve Mobile or pop up VIC Note dotted lines denote options If budgets do not permit council to do both can opt for EITHER mobile option OR the outsourced centres. But it MUST offer one of them
  20. 20. Page 20 The ideal co-located centre – the staff perspective Should evoke a sense of place Appeal to ALL the senses Instant acknowledgement and clear wayfinding (both before and inside) Supports staff in being EXPERTS: facilities, systems and other services Extra facilities like ATMS, phone chargers to encourage footfall Mix of materials both paper and digital including WIFI Somewhere I feel proud and happy to work Clear and uncluttered/easy to find things when I need them Things to sell – bookable content, tours Link front office and back All the basics taken care of – toilets, parking etc Ability to grow the experience over time (not necessarily physical space) There is a strong overlap between these and the success factors noted earlier
  21. 21. Page 21 We also looked at other evidence for good co- location practices – to build a checklist of success factors for VICs (1) Key takeouts: • Needs: – Have we understood the needs of our different target audiences (VIC and Box Office)? Do we have a plan to satisfy these? • Branding and Recognition: – How will our two separate audiences recognise the new service? – What cues like uniforms/titles will there be? • Roles and responsibilities? – Is it clear who is leading what elements? – Who is the lead agency for set up? – Who is the lead agency for on-going management? Who will staff report to? – Will roles and responsibilities be managed jointly? Do we have clear job descriptions for this? – Whose job is it to promote? – Do staff work together or alongside one another? – Who is responsible for engagement and promotion? – Who owns success or failure? We found this guide had lots of great tips – despite being about co-location of local services
  22. 22. Page 22 We also looked at other evidence for good co- location practices – to build a checklist of success factors for VICs (2) Key takeouts: • Engagement and Promotion: – What steps are being taken to engage key stakeholders and local customers (VFR Hosts and Entertainment Centre visitors)? – What is being done to drive footfall (e.g. Signposting, promotion of the centre)? • Funding and financing: – Who owns this? – How are costs and revenues allocated between the parties? – What are start up costs? [Not to be underestimated] • Operations, Logistics and Practicalities: – Have we managed transport access? (in our case parking) – Have we planned for the different opening hours services may need? – How have we managed OH&S issues? – Are we confident are changes meet planning regulations? – What are legal arrangements e.g. Tenancies, ownership etc.,? • Future-proofing – What flexibility is built into the design to change or adapt? – What flexibility is built into staff roles and responsibilities? – What flexibility is built into management structures? • Other – How will success be monitored? – Are we managing the set up and operational phases separately? We found this guide had lots of great tips – despite being about co-location of local services
  23. 23. Page 23 Critical success factors for Mobiles and Pop Ups Great design •Shouldn’t just be a mobile brochure rack – should catch the eye/be different •Ensure the design is ‘on brand’ Give reasons to visit •Must provide new news (again not just a brochure rack) •Perception may be that people at events already know – so tell them hidden secrets •Co-locate it with something like a coffee stand or merchandising Staff engagement •Management need to believe in the concept to provide leadership •Staff must also believe in it – be motivated to make it a success. Change management may be important •Staff can’t just stand there – need to engage. Think abut which staff to use Location •As with any VIC choice of location is vital. •Events and markets are popular •But also places people naturally go. Often visitors may just go to the beach – so a mobile or pop up close to lunch or ice creams could be an opportunity to upsell them •Don’t just think about being part of it – think where in the venue is best
  24. 24. Page 24 My other learning Start by asking the right question... Not ‘Do we need a visitor centre or not?’ BUT What is the best way to maximise the benefits to our community AND visitors from tourism with the resources we have?
  25. 25. Page 25 Disclaimer: Please note that the information and data contained in this proposal has been prepared for the specific purpose of addressing the items for the proposed research between Pty Ltd and Participants in the TTRA International Conference 2016. It may not be suitable for other applications. The use of this data for any other purpose should be discussed with the lead author. accepts no responsibility for unauthorised use of this data by a third party. ©® 2016 E M + 61 416 213962 W +Carolyn Childs