Thursday, February 08, 2007

We'll Always Need Visitor Centers

In the late '90s I visited my daughter when she lived in a cool part of Portland. The layout of that city makes Durham look like it’s on a grid.

I rented my first Hertz with Neverlost… it was one of the initial in-auto navigation systems. Within two years, it was an option in a car I bought. Today I have a palm-sized unit that is transportable. In a couple of years or less, it will be standard with most cars.

Why? Because getting lost or trying to find new places in either familiar or unfamiliar communities is a universal condition.

So we won’t need Visitor Information Centers, right? No, there will always be a shrinking group of techno-phobes or techno-rebels who will require face-to-face counseling with a new destination.

But the work of a CVB has expanded, not diminished, with navigational systems. Now we are the gatekeepers for several layers in GIS maps at the local level. We have to make sure updates get distributed to the companies that provide the maps to the navigation systems. Streets change, points of interest go in and out of business, landmarks change, and every time they do, they will trip up someone using those maps. The only way to keep them accurate is someone here on the ground every day to monitor and update.

It’s like the Internet itself. It didn’t make our work easier: it added an entirely new dimension, made work faster, and created a whole new level of urgency.

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