Touch-screen tourist info centers in the works for city

Published 12:03 am Saturday, January 29, 2011

To keep up with the digital age, the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau will install two interactive informational kiosks at two local visitor stations this year.

“We have to move forward,” VCVB board member David Day said Thursday after the group’s monthly meeting. “Our customers, who are the visitors to Vicksburg, have an expectation of a digital experience — or else you’re considered antiquated. Even though we are a historical town with this wonderful and tremendous history, we have to stay 100 percent modern in order to reach the people who are out there traveling.”

Information such as local dining and shopping attractions, tours, events and gaming will be featured on a 3-feet by 4-feet touch screen. Information will be in real time and streamed from the VCVB website.

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A kiosk is to be installed by the end of March at the Vicksburg National Military Park Visitor Center and the other sometime in 2012 at the renovated Levee Street Depot set to be completed by year’s end; however, that location is under consideration because the board agreed to look into installing it in a higher traffic center — the Mississippi Welcome Center at Washington and Interstate 20, a state-run facility that nets about 10,000 people a month.

VCVB Executive Director Bill Seratt told the board that special permission from the state would be needed.

Cost of both kiosks is estimated at $40,000, which includes design, software and hardware.

“It’s expensive at first, but once you pay that price up front, you have a 5- to 7-year life on your product,” Day said. “If we’re going to stay competitive in the tourism market, we have to stay up with the technology.”

Technological advances at the VCVB also include a website that features a calendar of events and information on attractions. A special feature called Hot Deals gives local businesses an opportunity to advertise for free on the site.

“To get listed on Hot Deals, just send us your information,” Seratt said. “A Hot Deal must have a beginning date and an end date. We are begging for hot deals. A hot deal doesn’t mean cheap. It just means there is value in there.”

In other business, the board heard a presentation by the Riverfest board requesting sponsorship for this year’s event that is set for April 15 and 16. The board agreed to give the outdoor, downtown festival the requested $15,000 — $10,000 for advertising and $5,000 cash.

“We have very few outdoor events, and we need more of that,” Seratt said adding that the VCVB is a promoting agency and not a presenting agency. “We need to encourage a team like this to do more weekend events. We are very lacking in that department. We need to develop as many presenters as we possibly can and use our dollars wisely to draw more people into the market.”

The board did not fund Riverfest last year, but offered advertisement for the event, which is in its 24th year.