Should I close my Visitor Center?
(What you want to consider before making the big decision)

A lot of the destination locations beaches, trails, national parks, visitor centers, along with other programs were postponed indefinitely. The travel industry has been hit hard but we are all hoping for the start of the recovery in 2021. As travelers are slowly gaining momentum, it’s a great time to rethink the approach, to change, and to understand the shifts of travelers and how you can meet this change.   So, is it still worth keeping your Visitor Center and continuing to invest in these experiences?

Understanding the Shutdown point

Basically, the shutdown point is easily and commonly determined if a business is no longer able to sustain the variable costs. But unlike the retail and food industry – who offers staple services and products, travel and tourism offer otherwise. It is an extracurricular activity for families, businesses, and organizations to connect, unwind and de-stress and provide a simpler approach to enjoying a destination.

Before making that final decision, you have to assess where your destination currently stands and answer these questions in the effort of correcting any existing problems that affect your destination’s profitability.    The first question is always the most important.

  1. What is your goal as an organization? Does visitor services firmly align with key needed attributes of your vision and the goals of your community
  2. Does what you provide truly service the traveler, has it been integrated into your overall strategy, do you know your goal of visitor services?
  3. Have you done the numbers?
    1. how many visitors come into your area, how many visit your center
    2. do you get good information on service level, and who is entering your center?
  4. Do you know your visitor? Demographics, Goals, what value can you provide them, do they perceive this value?
  5. Do you have the budget to truly provide value and provide the experience guests want?
  6. Have you considered options, utilizing technology, or other ways to achieve the goal of the traveler?
  7. Have you considered labor needs, hours where they will be most valuable, new ways to staff and maintain your visitor center?
  8. Do you need paper, brochures, and other traditional items, are there ways you could decrease labor needs and costs?
  9. Can your center drive revenue, validate exposure for local businesses and stakeholders? What do your stakeholders say is valuable for their guests or visitors?
  10. Are there partnerships, advertising, or other means of building and connecting marketing strategies, that would justify or fund visitor services to accomplish both sides of the coin?

Out of all of these questions, there should be some specific ones that you know and understand and ensure that it connects with your goals and those of your stakeholders.    Do you know what your customer perceives as valuable, do you know what problems you solve for them?    Finally, can you build a strategy that firmly connects the dots between visitor services and community value?

If you have the resources to weather the storm, then you have the opportunity to truly look at value and needs.    Understanding as well that you have to make a decision, as what you have done in the past or are doing may not be relevant to the new generation.   You have to consider the investment to be made to be relevant in this new normal of visitor services.   In some cases, you have to start operating like a business, I know this can sometimes go against the true nature of visitor services but it’s something you must come to terms with.

There are many things you can do to stay relevant, to upgrade your data and revenue approach, and to connect marketing with visitor services.  For purposes of this blog, why don’t we look at just a few to reduce costs now and in the future?

Alternative Options to Consider

  1. Shortened visit hours – If you commit to safety but still considers accepting visitors, you may as well consider shortened visitor hours. Only focusing on key traveling times.
  2. The use of technology such as 24×7 indoor or outdoor kiosks, use of mobile technology, and ways for visitors to text or video conference staff members
  3. Consider reducing costs on visitor guides for more digital means, even if the visitor center guide is a money maker you need to start the digital mix before it becomes irrelevant
  4. Consider new ways of tracking traffic, and getting good numbers and info on who is visiting this will also help in value and revenue programs for stakeholders
  5. Connect with local health and safety measures and use this situation to redefine staff and visitor protection, by using scheduling tools and new ways of engagement
  6. The travel expert and tour guide needs will increase how can use the staff or services you have now to drive value, and create the perception of added services for travelers

Key Takeaways:

  • Know the traveler, know the numbers, and understand the needs of your stakeholders
  • Shutting down during this time presents an opportunity for the above and redefine the goals of your organization
  • Consider new ways to finance your center, ways that will drive revenue, you have specialized talent, you have locations, and ways to help travelers and local businesses ensure you understand and think through what works best for your destination.

Pros and Cons of Shutting Down your Visitor Center

One of the biggest cons in shutting down your visitor center is the perception to your visitors and local business that you can support their needs.   Trust me the minute you start talking about closing visitor centers, you will see a huge increase in exposure of why to keep it.   Don’t worry events, meetings and travelers will return how will you support the rise in travelers.   Losing some of your best employees with the knowledge and ability to truly impact the destination experience.   The impact of this on the community and the lives of the people that depend on your center as the guiding light of your visitor and local business experience.  You could be losing a very strong long-term revenue stream and the connection to your brand with now human connection.

Rethink your Marketing Strategy.  Rethink your marketing strategy on how to acquire a wider audience reach as you reopen. Focusing on points that you have missed previously and how you can connect with your past current and future visitors using any available tools While ensuring that they are safe as they return.

Give room to improve your services. Along with improving your marketing strategy, you must also consider the new products and services that you may want to offer your travelers. The next generation of visitors is longing for more personalized experiences.    You can use technology and innovative tools to pave the way but you must invest in the future.   In fact,  in 2020 there are about 592 million daily app downloads Which actually shows that an average consumer spends more time using an app than watching TV according to research.

Opportunity to explore partnerships as you reopen. Several centers have considered merging retail programs with their actual visitor centers? Focusing on the retail side has been one of the emerging opportunities that seem to work more than usual.  What this actually means is that establishing partnerships and collaborating with local businesses from the retail, food, and beverage industry or even real-estate can be worth trying. You can easily encourage your visitors to visit these local businesses and provide discounts or coupons as they go – win-win for both the destination and the local shops!   Consider the number of people that are going to be moving and considering your destination do they have a place they can ask local questions, and provide guidance about community and areas.  You may have more value than you know for your local economy.

If you’re looking for a business partner to help you with implementing technology as you open or reopen your visitor center, OmniExperience can help you with options and ideas that connect your strategy and revenue programs.   We provide you with the right mix of connected software and hardware services that can help simplify and evolve your operations. Call us at 8333006664 or email us at [email protected] to learn more and change your strategy to a winning direction!