As we have reported throughout fall 2020 and into 2021, GRCVB was grateful to have received CARES Act funding through Wake County. We have written in previous Tourism Talk posts about how the funds were allotted for four, significant tourism projects during that time.

One of those projects that is about to debut is a retrofit/upgrade of the official Visitor Information Center, which we affectionately refer to as "the VIC." The VIC is located in the connector space between the Raleigh Convention Center and the Raleigh Marriott City Center (adjacent to the hotel’s porte cochère and just off City Plaza).

The VIC has been in this location since 2010 (before that, it was in the lobby of the City of Raleigh Museum, further north on Fayetteville St.). It was relocated shortly after the convention center opened to make it more accessible to convention-goers and easier to find for other visitors.

The VIC is an unsung hero of the tourism promotion business here in Wake County. In 2019, the VIC hosted 11,477 walk-in visitors, answered 1,431 questions by phone or email and mailed 9,799 copies of the Official Visitors Guide to those who requested it. The manager of the VIC, Kessa Stevens, CGSP®, and her crew of volunteer ambassadors are on duty to answer detailed questions, suggest itineraries, make referrals to hospitality business partners and provide all kinds of general visitor information.

The VIC is under the auspices of GRCVB’s Destination Services Department and is supervised by director of destination services Julie Brakenbury, CGSP®. When COVID came along and interacting in-person became more challenging, the physical VIC had to be closed temporarily and reimagined. A virtual version of the VIC has continued to operate from a remote location, answering questions and fielding Visitors Guide requests.
VIC insert“The CARES Act funding allowed us to plan for how the VIC should look as we emerge from COVID and as visitors return to Raleigh," said Julie. “So we opted to focus on how to make the VIC safe for both staff and visitors, while also making it hospitable."

The renovation and update project included adding polycarbonate shields around the desk between the staff and visitors (like so many other businesses are doing), which ensures the safety of both parties but moreover communicates to visitors that safety is a top priority.

"We were also able to purchase equipment that will allow us to sanitize the space frequently," Julie reported, "including the use of a hygienic fogger and air purifier."

Also included in the project was the update of one of the Raleigh Convention Center’s portable visitor kiosks and the creation of another. The original kiosk has been present at the convention center for several years; the second will be available on the ballroom level to field questions from visitors. Both can be moved to wherever they are needed in the building, and both have polycarbonate protective shields added to them.

According to Julie, "The Destination Services team has committed considerable time to research best practices for welcome services, visitor center operations and welcome materials and will continually update our standard operating procedures as the COVID/post-COVID situation evolves."

Lastly, the project included updating the dated TV screens in the VIC. The plan is for those screens to promote safe practices, note area businesses that have Count On Me NC certification, promote GRCVB's COVID-19 alert resources and display photos, videos and other announcements going forward.

The project to reopen is nearly completed with a projected date of late February or early March.

Ironically, if you haven’t visited the VIC, it will be a good time to do so in the coming weeks. We look forward to serving you, your guests and many other visitors safely there!