Taking Your Visitor Center Mobile

Taking Your Visitor Center Mobile

The visitor center. Our love for this relic of past is quickly dwindling due to realities of our new digital world.

At the recent Missouri Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus Annual Conference (MACVB hence forth), yours truly was asked to gaze into future and enlighten the audience on what is next for the visitor center.

Enlighten, terrify…same thing.

We talked about the challenge of expectations, retail design, Apple, etc, etc. Even how DMOs and CVBs across the world are potentially cannibalizing their own visitors by pushing them towards a mobile-friendly app with some not so visitor center friendly consequences.

A whole room…hoping, struggling, searching for reasons and rationale to keep the visitor center intact and in place.

During the Q & A finale, Tracy Kimberlin (our wonderful host from the Springfield CVB), was brave enough to ask a question.

We have 3 physical visitor centers, considering the rise of digital, how can I continue to justify the costs…rent, overhead, etc…of running a visitor center?

My first thought: Shit, that is a lot of visitor centers.

My second thought, and first audible response: Consider using the visitor center space to push and promote your mobile products, like Napa Valley or Columbus does.

I could tell by the look on Tracy’s face that my answer was not the miracle he was looking for. Time for a change of direction.

Close the visitor centers.

Yeah, close them.

What is (likely) your biggest issue and cost associated with a visitor center? The rent on the property.

So, let’s eliminate that problem. And propose an elegant, if not borrowed solution.

Four visitor guides to go.Food trucks.

One of the main reasons behind our country’s recent affair with the mobile meal is the cost of commercial real estate. Chefs want to cook, not manage a building. Their biggest cost? Rent. The solution? Simplify that shit. Take the product mobile via a one-time, low-cost restaurant on wheels.

Why not do the same thing for your visitor center?

Food truck, bookmobile, old ambulance. I don’t care want you put it in, the idea is the same. A mobile visitor center allows you to (nearly) eliminate your biggest cost, plus gives you the benefit of mobility.

Take your message to the people!

Conventions, sporting events, holiday weekends at the airport, marketing invasions of the next town and why not a road trip to Vegas?

Sure, keep some brochures in the thing. Line the outside with flip-up panels and iPads. Customize the interior with 4 or 5 information stations. Any why wouldn’t you pimp that thing out with a great paint job, including a huge map of the local area.

Tweet the location. Build a following. Show up spontaneously and give out great prizes. Become a visible part of the community.

This is not a campaign.

This is a long-term solution.

A permanent shift to reflect the changing consumer.

Think about this. You could literally move your visitor center to the exact spot where your target audience is at. Whether that is down the street or across the state.

Forget mobile, time to put your visitor center on wheels.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.