One of the vexing ironies of travel is that Visitor Information Centers (VIC) do little to nothing to enhance or promote the destination they represent. If anything, they can be a “turn off” for the destination.
Visitor centers are usually some functional building filled with tired staffers surrounded by lots of brochures, a few maps and mundane kinds of information.
Almost never anything interactive
Great places to use the restrooms and buy a Coke and a bag of chips.
Just as Kayak, the successful fare search engine, launched its new web site to mirror the best design features of Apple, so has the Manchester Visitor Information Center.
HotelMarketing.com says that Kayak’s redesigned site borrows heavily from its iPad and iPhone apps, resulting in simpler, more engaging set of pages.
Manchester’s technology-heavy, Apple-inspired design is geared to make “discovering the city fun and useful,” also using clever technology-inspired experiences.
Tnooz reports, for example, a Mediawall that fills and entire end of the center and lures visitors into participating in the Manchester experience.
There are wall-size, a real-time information screens carrying messages from local businesses, residents and travelers and pose fun, quirky questions like, “Mummy, why does the train go Choo-Choo?”
There are lots of desktop computers around the space for booking and research, and live tweets that create a living sense of the present.
The Microsoft Surface Table, which is fast becoming a staple of the industry’s need to engage travelers in their travel-decision making process, plays a prominent role in the city’s VIC.
The surface table is gives visitors a 360-degree interface that elegantly combines touch with real-world objects, and gives visitors tactile and informational interaction with maps, hotels, attractions and the like.
How successful is the Apple VIC spin-off?
Tnooz quotes Andrew Daines, who consulted on the project, as saying that 58% of visitors discovered new places to visit using the tech, and two-thirds of visitors actually cited the technology as a reason they would visit the center again.
So, the theory probably is, if you can get potential visitors to return to and interact with the center, actual bookings to the destination should be the next logical step.
Unless of course, the Visitor Center satisfies the need for the visit itself.