Case Study: Creating the Platform the Traveler Tourism and Community Network
What is the Traveler Tourism and Community Network?
The Traveler Tourism and Community Network (hereafter Traveler Network) was a network of free-standing kiosks (or panel displays) and virtual portals installed in various locations throughout the region (hotels, airports, attractions, etc.). A pilot project called TexBox Tourism and Community Network” was developed and deployed in Texas in the United States in 2003. TexBoxes (electronic information kiosks), during the pilot project provided important travel information and services to the traveling public. The Traveler Network will create numerous additional benefits, a few include:
• a new “marketing” venue for rural communities and businesses interested in growing tourism.
• hubs for regional and community collaboration and networking.
• valuable capabilities to disseminate critical emergency/medical services to rural areas.
• a system to capture valuable information about the traveling public, their activities, preferences and feedback.
Introduction and Demonstration Project Overview
Proposed is the development of a demonstration version of free-standing computer information kiosk including: cabinet, computer hardware (CPU, touch-screen monitor, etc.) and software necessary to facilitate access to an online based system that will provide information to the traveling public.
Initial information provided will include:
• Tourist information (accommodations, attractions, services, etc.)
• Road conditions
• Route information
• Safety Information
• User surveys
• Emergency services
• Interpretive information about the area (natural, cultural, etc.)
• Local industry contact information
Each chosen site will need to have Internet access available to the kiosk, preferably high-speed.
Travelers typically know little about the places they are traveling through. They also have questions that need to be answered (e.g. road conditions, weather, etc.). In conjunction with the efforts of various tourism development entities, this proposal outlines the creation of a network of digital information kiosks/portals that will provide answers to traveler’s questions.
The purpose of the Traveler Network is to provide:
1) a complete “package” of answers to questions that traveler’s might have,
2) customized information about the places they are traveling through,
3) support for small businesses in rural communities and regions, and
4) contribute to coordination of tourism development efforts throughout the region.
The intent of the Traveler Network is to help the region and communities be better hosts to visitors and do a better job of “Marketing Your Region”. In addition, the Traveler Network can provide dynamic, interesting and timely information to users at locations where it is not practical to have the facilities staffed. In addition, the Traveler Network can serve as a template that can easily be adapted in other regions.
Steps in the Process
Solomon Source Consulting and our regional contacts will perform the following tasks as part of this project:
• Conduct on-site reconnaissance and perform research in the areas and communities where the kiosks/portals will be.
• Contact communities located near each kiosk for assistance with gathering local information about attractions, accommodations and other pertinent information.
• Purchase, assemble and test the hardware, software and other equipment for the physical kiosk system (including the cabinet and any accessories).
• Research and identify Web based resources and information that will constitute the “informational content” of kiosk system.
• Develop Graphic User Interface (GUI) necessary to provide touch-screen access to information provided through the kiosks.
• Develop Web based resources (Web pages, text, graphics, maps, etc.) that will be stored locally on the computer CPU that will be housed in each of the kiosk units.
• Develop Web based resources (Web pages, text, graphics, databases, maps, etc.) that will be accessed from a Web server housed at a centralized location
• The final “pilot” product will present a prototype with some, but not all, of the information developed.
A Regional Tourism Development Hub?
The Traveler Network can become a tourism hub, creating a communication and collaboration network to assist communities and businesses to share information and resources. The Traveler Network is a system that can provide “marketing” exposure for rural communities to travelers who stop in communities and tourism attractions and Travel Information Centers annually.
Partners in the Traveler Network
A cornerstone of the Traveler Network is that the “content” of each will be developed and maintained by regional groups (local Chambers of Commerce, Convention & visitors bureaus, etc.) who live near the visitor facilities or attractions. Local responsibility can transform the project into a community grassroots-based effort. This design distributes responsibility of developing and maintaining the content to local groups who are one of the primary beneficiaries of the system, besides the traveling public.
Regional tourism destinations can become more important for nearby communities because the information technology infrastructure outlined in this proposal might very well establish regional and community tourism information centers as “Hubs” for community and regional tourism development. The Traveler Network can answer customer’s questions while it can also address several other important issues that are facing the tourism industry, rural communities, and citizens in the Department. A few of these are outlined briefly below.
Addressing the Needs of Both User Groups
The Traveler Network can help regions and the tourism agencies to satisfy the needs of communities’ and travelers. Communities need to promote their areas to the traveling public, and travelers need travel information and ways to find tourism opportunities. The Traveler Network accomplishes this while satisfying several goals for regions and states, its citizens, and the people that are visiting the country. A few of these include:
Easing Traveler’s—Travel Anxieties—Safety & Security
The Traveler Network will provide important safety and security information which can potentially reduce traffic fatalities and ensure that traveler’s concerns are minimized, while maximizing public awareness of safety issues.
Create Tourism Marketing Opportunities for Communities and Businesses
The Traveler Network will provide communities a way to attract travelers to spend some time in their region. Marketing for rural areas is constantly a challenge. The kiosks and portals at designated locations would provide useful information to travelers and create a new vehicle to reach potential customers who at the present time are driving by with little knowledge about the area.
Avoid Creating a New Government Agency or Bureaucracy
The Traveler Network will provide additional information without creating a need for additional on-site personnel. The design of the Traveler Network facilitates gathering information and providing a network for inputting, accessing and updating the information. The majority of content production and management will be the responsibility of the communities where the tourism kiosks are located.
Collect Important Information About Tourism’s Impact
Embedded in the Traveler Network kiosks technology are the capabilities to capture important information about users of the system. Several strategies have been developed and can be used to gather important information about tourism in the chosen region. In addition, this information will be invaluable to policy and decision makers (local, regional, national) and researchers interested in studying tourism’s impacts.
Internet Access Kiosk
Internet access Kiosks will be installed in designated facilities in a well-lit, secure location. They will be secured to the floor to prevent theft. The kiosks that are being considered will be heavy-duty with durable components, designed specifically for use in areas without supervision. Other components such as a security camera will be included to discourage vandalism. An example of a kiosk is shown in Diagram 8.
The kiosk will be attractive with a modular design. It will include the following components:
1) Kiosk Enclosure
2) Color monitor (optional touch screen)
3) Computer CPU with CD drive (up-to-date processor and RAM/ROM memory)
4) Durable keyboard
5) Durable trackball mouse (optional outdoor)
7) Speakers/sound system
8) Internet ready with wireless capability (optional wireless Internet "hot-spot")
9) Promotional space
Figure 2: Example kiosk
Promotion and Public Relation Campaigns
Working in concert with the existing projects in the region, “Experience Your Region” will launch a public relations campaign to promote this project in a selected region, nationwide and internationally. It is likely that this project will be the first of its kind in this country and it will serve as a model for other states considering this type of offering.
To sustain the positive publicity about this initiative, “Experience Your Region” (see branding discussion in Initiative II) will actively promote this service utilizing its media contacts and outlets and through its relationships with governmental offices, other businesses, tourism associations and other organizations.