Tony Dobrowolski | Out of the Pages: Searching for the visitors center
PITTSFIELD — Someone asked me a question the other day that took me a little while to answer.
They wanted to know where the Pittsfield Visitors Center was located. I immediately assumed that they were referring to the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, which is located in 1Berkshire's headquarters building at 66 Allen St. But then I remembered that the Visitors Bureau and the Visitors Center are separate entities.
I also remembered that the city's Visitors Center had been located in the Colonial Theatre a few years ago. But after it moved, I lost track of it.
So where is it now? I found it at the Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue. Now this location isn't a secret. You can find it listed online at www.cityofpittsfield.org/visitor/planning_your_visit.php. And it's centrally located, which is a plus. But unless you're traveling to Pittsfield by bus or train, which most tourists to this area don't do, or know exactly where you're going, the Pittsfield Visitors Center isn't easy to find.
Personally, I can't imagine visitors new to Pittsfield who are strolling down North Street taking a short jaunt up Columbus Avenue to visit a monolithic building like a transit center to learn more about the city's attractions.
That whole area is filled with nothing but infrastructure: there's a parking garage across the street from the transit center and the Pittsfield Fire Department's headquarters next to it. Unless they are historic buildings or architecturally significant, visiting those kinds of structures isn't something that strolling tourists would normally do.
There is a sign on the corner of Columbus and North that directs you to the Visitors Center. But it's one of those banner signs that are elevated above street level. You won't see it if you don't look up. I almost missed it.
The Visitors Center also has a sign on its outside window that fronts on Columbus Avenue, and another sign on the front door, which are two other pluses. But the office can be hard to find depending on where you enter the transit center. Maybe it's just me — I frequently can't remember where I parked my car in The Eagle's parking lot — but after entering the transit center at the entrance closest to North Street I walked from one end of the first floor to the other before I doubled back and found it.
Tourism season is coming around again — it officially begins in the Berkshires on Memorial Day weekend. Wouldn't it be easier for those who visit the city to find a visitors center that is in a more visible location? If that isn't possible, how about placing a kiosk on North Street or some other downtown location that strollers can see, staffed by somebody who could refer those who want more information to the Intermodal Transit Center.
Many years ago, there was a wooden kiosk filled with visitor's material located on Bank Row near the Berkshire County Courthouse complex. Why not put one there again?
Tourism is an industry in the Berkshires now. We need to make it easier for visitors to Pittsfield to find things here not harder.
When print tops digital
It's no secret that we live in an increasingly digital age. But when it comes to tourism, print brochures have not gone out of style. They are still considered a main source of information for visitors.
A survey published recently in Travel Daily News International found that 93 percent of front office staff in the hospitality industry prefer using printed media, and that 94 percent of hotels provide visitor information for their guests via a brochure display. Also, 83 percent of the respondents overwhelmingly supported the availability of print media ranking it extremely important for their guests.
"In the age of mobile phones and devices, guests still look to the front desk for printed, tangible brochures and visitor maps," said Ian Cross, the director of Bentley's Center for Marketing Technology which conducted the survey with the International Association of Professional Brochure Distributors.
"Data suggests the importance of well placed attention of guests and fosters interaction with front desk staff," Cross said in a statement,
The survey examined 1,560 responses from hospitality professionals in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and Greece. The survey also found that 46 percent of hotel guests often used printed brochures, and that 40 percent always use them. Thirteen percent said they used printed brochures "sometimes." Only one percent stated that they never use them,
Based on those numbers, a visitors kiosk in downtown Pittsfield doesn't sound like a bad idea.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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