Rolling tourism kiosk sparks new initiative
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., Jan. 8, 2013
An ambulance converted into a rolling billboard and tourism kiosk is the focus of a new tourism initiative aimed at bringing news of what Norwich has to offer to the wider region. A project of the newly-formed Greater Norwich Area Renaissance Collaborative, the converted vehicle will house a state-of-the-art interactive kiosk intended to entice people from throughout the region to visit Norwich.
“This is going to revolutionize the way we do tourism in Norwich,” said Ben Lathrop, president and executive director of the Greater Norwich Chamber of Commerce. “We have to get people to come to our community, and the way to do that is to go to them.”
Chamber officials, along with project partners from American Ambulance and Camaro Signs, unveiled the project Dec. 28 at the American Ambulance bays. The van exterior will be transformed by a wraparound Norwich-themed graphic. Inside, visitors can use the latest technology to find out about Norwich historic sites, attractions and visitor services, even printing up a personalized map to Norwich sites from the visitor’s home. The van will be traveling to high-traffic regional events, such as agricultural fairs, throughout eastern Connecticut from Montville north, Lathrop said.
Lathrop said the idea for the project came to him when he noticed several vehicles at the ambulance company’s repair bay during his daily walk. He approached Michael Aliano, president and CEO of American Ambulance, to ask whether the vehicles were being put out of service and whether any could be donated for marketing purposes. “He didn’t hesitate, just like his dad,” Lathrop said.
Aliano’s father, the late Ron Aliano, was a local developer and lifelong Norwich booster, with whom Lathrop admitted he occasionally clashed during his tenure as mayor. “He could disagree with you one day but then call you and say, ‘Let’s compromise,’” said Lathrop. The project is dedicated to Ron Aliano’s memory, he said. “He would be so proud of you,” Lathrop told the younger Aliano.
Apart from the ambulance, valued at $10,000, Camaro Signs is donating the exterior graphic for the kiosk, valued at $5,000. Other local businesses are being solicited as sponsors for the project as well, either for the inner workings of the kiosk or as advertising spots on the rolling billboard. Lathrop said that the Chamber hopes to have the kiosk fully operational in April or May. “We’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot more to do,” he said. “We want to get this going in the springtime because we’re ready to rock and roll. I’m so enthused about where we’re going.”
Norwich had an active tourism group in the 1990s, and some of the members of that group will be part of the new collaborative, said Mayor Peter Nystrom. “We have more historic sites in the city – 59 in total – than any other town in Connecticut,” he said. “I can’t wait to take this on a spin.”