Virginia extends e-welcome
- By Eric Kulisch
- Jan 17, 2001
Virginia rest areas and welcome centers along major highways soon will have
more to offer than bathrooms and brochures. These stops will become virtual
visitor centers where travelers can go online to get directions and real-time
traffic and weather information, learn about attractions, make hotel reservations
and even book golf tee times.
"We believe our center is the first of its kind in the nation," said
Joshua Lief, the state's deputy secretary of commerce and trade.
The goal is to promote tourism by making it easy for visitors to extend
their stays or plan return vacations, he said.
The multimedia kiosks will have high-speed Internet access to the state's
tourism Web site, www.virginia.org. Printers will
be available so visitors can take information with them. Most noticeable
will be 48-inch DVD touch-screen theaters on which tourists can watch videos
about destinations in the state.
Virginia also has plans to place the kiosks in local and regional visitor
centers, museums and at some private sites.
"This is meant to be scalable depending on the size of [the] facility,"
Lief said. "The more of them are deployed, the more integrated our tourism
resources will be and the more user-friendly."
The $68,000 prototype virtual visitor center, recently on display in
the state's general assembly, will be deployed at a stop on I-95 near Petersburg
this spring, Lief said. State officials have targeted only a couple of other
rest areas for kiosks at this point.
Funding formulas still are being worked out, Lief said. As the program
expands, large attractions will be asked to help sponsor on-site kiosks,
and businesses may pay extra for banners or highlights on the Web site.
To ensure statewide access to the system, small or remote historical sites
may not be charged to host a kiosk.