Visit Mesa is in a new location and, in keeping with the times, offers new digital resources for visitors.
They include digital kiosks, incentive programs and accessibility aids.
At its new address at 1 N. McDonald, the organization is equipped with two interactive kiosks to allow orientation for tourists and locals.
“If you have family or friends visiting, this is where you can now get your tourist information,” said Visit Mesa spokeswoman Michelle Streeter.
The lease expired on the previous location, which had been the home of Visit Mesa since the 1980s. The new location is closer to Main Street, within the footprint of the downtown Mesa museum, and steps from the Museum of History. Native of Arizona.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Mesa offers a quick getaway to three lakes and two rivers, the majestic Tonto National Forest, other parks, Sonoran Desert hiking trails, and city bike trails.
For culture and history buffs, offerings abound at the world-class Mesa Arts Center and downtown Mesa museums.
Looking for a cold beer? A place to play golf? How about a museum specializing in flying warbirds?
For information on any of these and other attractions Mesa has to offer, please go to the ground floor lobby of 1 N. MacDonald.
Kiosks are easy to use and work similar to an app on a smartphone screen, only bigger. The information a visitor may need is literally available at their fingertips.
To zoom from one screen to another, visitors can navigate with their fingers and find maps, transit information, hotel accommodations and other resources, as well as explore dining options, attractions, things to do and other similar entertainment.
“You can send so much information directly to your mobile device,” Streeter said, referring to the ease with which information can be saved to a personal device.
In the lobby there are also tourist brochures to pick up. If visitors need further assistance, they can access staff upstairs from the kiosk. If visitors from out of state require printed material, fulfillment services are available.
Due to the pandemic shutdown for the past two years and the hot summer months this year, Visit Mesa hasn’t received its usual list of visitors seeking services, Streeter said.
But that’s about to change in the fall, when travel to Arizona becomes more desirable as temperatures drop.
In addition to expecting more visitors to its facilities, Visit Mesa has also launched some new initiatives related to accessibility trips.
In 2019, Mesa became the first city in the world to become autism certified, an effort spearheaded by Visit Mesa. This was followed by hotel companies and community organizations that obtained certification and received specialized training for front-of-house staff.
Since then, many companies offer personalized experiences for people with autism and their families.
“Not just visitors and kids, teens and adults on the spectrum, we’re now expanding the scope to really become a more inclusive destination for travelers with disabilities,” Streeter said.
Those on the autism spectrum can participate in a free incentive program called Passport Live Life Without Limits.
The digital passport allows visitors to explore businesses (hotels, restaurants and attractions) that are committed to welcoming travelers on the spectrum.
Families can access the passport on a smartphone, delivered via text and email, and check in each time a location is accessed. When visitors check in at five of those locations, they’ll earn a complimentary puzzle that can be picked up at the Visit Mesa office.
“Our hope is that this passport will be the catalyst to create wonderful memories for these families,” said Alison Brooks, Director of Destination Experience and Advocacy.
Visit Mesa also launched AIRA, an accessibility technology-enabled phone app that helps people who are vision-impaired or visually impaired. It’s also available at Starbucks and Target locations.
With AIRA, a human agent accesses your camera and acts as your eyes, providing a real-time interpretation of the environment.
To make the city more attractive to travelers with disabilities, Visit Mesa has also adopted the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program developed in the UK.
Complimentary sunflower lanyards and bracelets, when worn, serve as a visual cue to trained visitor industry staff throughout Mesa. Staff will be able to recognize if that traveler or companion wants additional support during their visit.
Along with the sunflower program, Visit Mesa has also launched itineraries that offer 360-degree videos that people can preview and show the accessibility of a place.
“That’s really important because people who have disabilities don’t want to be caught off guard,” Streeter said. “There’s a lot of extra planning and variables that they need, there’s a lot of extra touches that they need to make sure their experience is seamless.
“What we’ve done from a visitor’s point of view is try to introduce some of these new technologies and new skills so that they know they have options when selecting a destination and they might be more inclined to come to Mesa,” he added.