By Chad Ingram
Published June 14 2016
Haliburton County council will explore the option of electronic information kiosks as it prepares to close the county’s Highway 35 tourist info centre at the end of 2016.
Councillors decided in January they would close the centre located for years in a building the municipality leases from the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce.
Of the 3700 walk-ins the centre had last year nearly a third of those people were there solely to use the washroom. Excluding the salary of the tourism information clerk the centre cost $62000 to operate in 2015. Excluding the visitors who came just to use the washroom tourism director Amanda Virtanen said this meant the cost for each customer engagement at the centre last year was $23.58 versus the .0003 cent per customer cost of each digital consumer impression the county makes online.
Once the centre closes the tourism information clerk will work out of the county office on Newcastle Street and continue to provide phone and email services and the distribution of tourism materials from that location as well as spend more time out in community.
Following direction from the tourism committee Virtanen has been looking at alternate ways to deliver information.
“Since the decision to close the tourist information centre in Minden has been made there has also been an interest expressed by the Haliburton County tourism committee to reconsider service delivery methods across the whole county perhaps with a focus on key entry points for the travelling consumer” reads a report from Virtanen received by members of the committee during a June 8 meeting.
Virtanen told councillors she considered consumer research trends as well as investment requirements long-term feasibility trends in other regions etc. in her research on options. From a list of five options committee members decided they liked the idea of electronic information kiosks at existing business locations near key entry points to the county.
Some suggested locations included grocery stores in Minden and Haliburton the Pinestone Agnew’s General Store in Wilberforce and Robinson’s General Store in Dorset.
Quotes from a Toronto-based company show the cost for an indoor unit including installation would be about $8000 to $10000.
Loading of information can be done by county staff.
“It gets into six figures if you want to have an outdoor unit” said Virtanen explaining the outdoor machines are equipped with protection from vandalism weather etc.
Virtanen did express some concern about the long-term relevance of the kiosks noting their prices had come down substantially in recent years and that they seem to be very readily available.
“It makes me wonder . . .what is the future of these machines?” she said.
However committee members liked the idea and asked Virtanen to look into it further.
“I think it’s a good place to start with one in Minden” said Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey.
The committee also asked the tourism director to explore the idea of some kind of mobile information service that could be taken to events.