Updated: Jan 12, 2020
Today technology is the name of the game, especially for travel planning information. The internet of things seems to have left traditional information sources in the dust, including highway information centers operated by states and localities across the country.
Now a new model has been developed based on a changing and increasingly competitive visitor information environment to ensure the continued relevance of these convenient stop-in sites into the foreseeable future.
Lauren Schlau Consulting and SMG Consulting recently completed a study of California Welcome Centers (CWC), a state-licensed network with 17 locations statewide. The results offer groundbreaking conclusions about welcome centers’ position and role in the travel planning continuum.
Based on survey data collected from welcome center visitors (and non-visitors), as well as from constituent businesses in each CWC destination, the consultants developed an insightful strategy focused on evolving the welcome center's competitive position as an experiential source of interactive, localized and personalized “insider” visitor information. This model expands the welcome center from a passive provider of brochures, maps,
and a bathroom into an integrated and fully differentiated immersive opportunity for visitors to stop and learn much more about their destination. It is designed to invite visitation even by mobile users, as the welcome center’s offerings and experience will not be accessible on-line. Another goal with this new approach is that welcome center users will engage in additional area activities and extend their visits.
This approach is new to California Welcome Centers; the consultants believe it can serve as a model for any welcome center operation. “Providing visitor information has changed dramatically and will continue to change in the future. The brick and mortar welcome center can remain relevant and sustainable over the long term by adjusting to these new marketplace demands,” stated Lauren Schlau and Carl Ribaudo, the consultants conducting the research for Visit California.