By Chad Ingram
Published June 10 2016
Haliburton County council will explore theoption of electronic information kiosks as it prepares to close the county'sHighway 35 tourist info centre at the end of 2016.
Councillors decided in January they would closethe centre located for years in a building the municipality leases from theHaliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce.
Of the 3700 walk-ins the centre had lastyear nearly a third of those people were there solely to use the washroom.
Excluding the salary of the tourism information clerk the centre cost $62000to operate in 2015.
Excluding the visitors who came just to use the washroom tourism directorAmanda Virtanen said this meant the cost for each customer engagement at thecentre last year was $23.58 versus the .0003 cent per customer cost of eachdigital consumer impression the county makes online.
“Would we ever spend $62000 on an ad that reaches 3000 people?” was the wayVirtanen put it to councillors.
Once the centre closes the tourisminformation clerk will work out of the county office on Newcastle Street andcontinue to provide phone and email services and the distribution of tourismmaterials from that location as well as spend more time out in community.
Following direction from the tourismcommittee Virtanen has been looking at alternate ways to deliver information.
“Since the decision to close the touristinformation centre in Minden has been made there has also been an interestexpressed by the Haliburton County tourism committee to reconsider servicedelivery methods across the whole county perhaps with a focus on key entrypoints for the travelling consumer” reads a report from Virtanen received bymembers of the committee during a June 8 meeting.
Virtanen told councillors she consideredconsumer research trends as well as investment requirements long-termfeasibility trends in other regions etc. in her research on options.
From a list of five options committeemembers decided they liked the idea of electronic information kiosks atexisting business locations near key entry points to the county.
Some suggested locations included grocerystores in Minden and Haliburton the Pinestone Agnew's General Store inWilberforce and Robinson's General Store in Dorset.
Quotes from a Toronto-based company showthe cost for an indoor unit including installation would be about $8000 to$10000.
Loading of information can be done bycounty staff.
“It gets into six figures if you want tohave an outdoor unit” said Virtanen explaining the outdoor machines areequipped with protection from vandalism weather etc.
Virtanen did express some concern about thelong-term relevance of the kiosks noting their prices had come downsubstantially in recent years and that they seem to be very readily available.
“It makes me wonder . . .what is the futureof these machines?” she said.
However committee members liked the ideaand asked Virtanen to look into further.
“I think it's a good place to start withone in Minden” said Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey.
The committee also asked the tourismdirector to explore the idea of some kind of mobile information device thatcould be taken to events.