One of the challenges visitor centers face is finding ways to engage and compel tourists the minute they walk through the door. Visitor centers are very often not much more than nondescript rooms with photos and an aging map on the wall, a rack of randomly organized pamphlets, and a small staff on-hand to answer questions. While this model may provide basic information, it does little to get visitors excited about the adventures available to them or sell them on the unique experiences awaiting them when they patronize local businesses.
The tourist center in Montérégie, Canada
was seeking a way to offer a very different experience. With the addition of NEC
Display Solutions, Montérégie Tourism is now a high-tech power center with interactive screens that vividly display local attractions, activities, and businesses. The digital redesign helps the center to better connect with visitors while promoting the region and has increased local business traffic.
Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries
One of the biggest challenges during the design of the new building was the fact that nothing like it had been done before. There was no template to follow, no proven ideas to adapt. The goal was to give visitors the sensation of being out in the region while still in the visitor center, and appeal to their emotions rather than just their minds. It was decided that the use of video with digital signage would be a very important part of creating that experience.
Today’s consumers are accustomed to seeing video everywhere – whether it’s on laptops or tablet computers, smartphones, digital signs in a store, hotel, or some other location – video is a part of everyday life. Monteregie Tourism felt the medium would be a good way to capture visitors’ attention and keep in touch with what they want.
Montérégie Tourism knew hiring an architectural team for the design was crucial. Typically, the design process begins with the architects, who create the concepts and receive approval. It is then up to the integrators and other partners to determine how to fit video hardware and software into the design. In this case, however, the architect involved the video producers, Arsenal Media
, and integrator Genesis Integration, Inc
. from the beginning.
Montérégie Tourism produces the video to whatever parameters work within the environment. More importantly, the digital signage displays were integrated into the design. Genesis Integration recommended the use of NEC Display Solutions screens throughout the visitor center. A total of 23 screens were specified, from small 23” screens for use in interactive information kiosks to large 52” HD displays that are spread across the eight tourist zones. The displays used included the 52” NEC P521, 32” NEC V321, and the 23” NEC AccuSync AS231WM.
The next hurdle faced was finding a way to integrate this critical digital signage into the overall design. The flow of traffic is designed to carry visitors from one zone to the next. Each section creates a unique experience without conflicting with the others. The goal for the redesign was to resemble an attraction at a theme park more than a visitor center. This was achieved through various digital signage displays and interactive kiosks. Visitors use the kiosks to obtain more information about activities and places to go. The touchscreens allow guests to select an area of interest and then drill down to obtain more details. In the history zone, visitors can find facts about museums, battlefields, and other historical sites.
While many visitors will come in and head right for a kiosk, not everyone is comfortable using them, so a staff is always on hand to help, either by walking them through the kiosk or leading them to other information.
One of the features Montérégie Tourism liked about NEC Display Solutions was the built-in scheduler that allows for the adjustment of programming as needed. Seasonal videos can be added and deleted easily, and the timing can be changed if necessary to match traffic flow. Having commercial products with a three-year warranty (versus consumer products with a one-year warranty) was also comforting. On the large-screen displays, the thin bezels of the NEC P Series enhance the visitor experience by improving the aesthetics of the overall installation.
Prior to the digital redesign, Montérégie Tourism was receiving roughly a few thousand visitors per month. Since implementing the digital and interactive displays, that number is expected to reach 100,000 visitors a year. Future plans call for adding 15 NEC displays in the hotel in the power center as well as in other high-traffic areas, which is expected to drive even more traffic to the MontérégieTourism visitor center.
Another exciting development has been the visits from tourist groups in other provinces of Canada, as well as France, to see what MontérégieTourism has done. When the new design was first proposed there was nothing like it. Now Montérégie Tourism has become the new standard of what’s possible.
Éric Fournier is the general manager for Montérégie Tourism. Established in 1978, Montérégie Tourism is one of the twenty Regional Tourism Associations in Québec. The association is a non-profit private organization that regroups the 385 main tourism businesses of Montérégie.