Jim Campinell, an employee of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce, takes a break from providing information to tourists at the Welcome Center on I-87 Northway northbound in the rest area south of Exit 18. The Chamber took over the operation of the facility and is now implementing plans to make it more accommodating and steer tourists into Warren County.
Tourists traveling northbound on Interstate 87 and taking a break at the rest area between exits 17 and 18 are now likely to experience some friendly persuasion to visit Warren County.
The Lake George Chamber of Commerce took over operation of the rest stop’s Welcome Center as of May 17, and the facility is to be staffed with outgoing personnel well informed in area attractions, chamber President Michael Consuelo said this week.
“Our goal is not just to distribute literature, but to engage visitors in conversations,” he said.
The chamber took over the space from HaPeDe, an enterprise of Harry Demarest and Kathy Barrie, who operated the facility for about 15 years.
Consuelo said his chamber plans to extend the center’s hours and equip the center with comfortable and appealing furniture, updated fixtures and brighter lighting — so it will be a more welcoming stopoff on the Northway. Until the takeover, there was no where for visitors to sit in the center, he said.
Warren County Supervisors voted recently to appropriate $25,000 per year for two years towards the Welcome Center’s operation. After that time, the operation is to be reviewed for a possible renewal of a lease with New York State.
The I-87 Northway is a conduit for traffic to Vermont and Canada as well as the Adirondacks. Literature on such destinations is available at the center, which charges a fee to put brochures and leaflets in their facility’s racks.
Consuelo said that destinations in Warren County would be highlighted by center personnel.
He added that touch-screen digital displays of Warren County attractions might be installed in the coming months. The center is also to be upgraded with an Internet connection via satellite, with public wi-fi likely to be available, he said.
“We want the Welcome Center to serve as a gateway to the Adirondacks,” Consuelo said.
The state mandates that the center be operated seven days in the summer and weekdays off-season. It has been open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Consuelo said that it is now open from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the heaviest traffic days of Thursday and Friday. Hours may be extended further depending on how many people stop by, Consuelo said.
“We want maximum exposure for the area attractions,” he said.
Already, the Welcome Center’s staff has hosted a considerable number of visitors, Consuelo said.
“We’ve already had an unbelieveable number of people coming into the center,” he said.
The center’s staff is now gathering information about the tourists and their destinations, Consuelo said, noting that according to their initial survey, about 70 percent of people visiting the center are headed for Lake George.
“We’re committed to find out the wants and needs of the travelers,” Consuelo said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to reach so many more people directly and share information about our county’s attractions.”