It’s surprising that Montville, a town which has one of the highest numbers of tourists in the state, thanks to Mohegan Sun, is lacking a welcome center, also known as a tourist information center.
Many years ago, I remember as a kid stopping in with my Dad at the old Mobil Mart at the Montville rest stop off I-395 and seeing a kiosk at the back of the store that displayed information about area attractions and even printed out directions.
I found it quite interesting as I’ve always been a curious person.
Granted the atmosphere was not welcoming but it served its purpose.
Later, the kiosk suddenly disappeared and a large Connecticut map was displayed with “You Are Here” written in ink and highlighted on a cork board in the narrow hallway to the restrooms, which was even less welcoming.
Now with a renovated service plaza, one might assume the trend would be reversed and possibly a welcoming tourist information center could be incorporated.
No such luck in a town where so many who visit wish Lady Luck would help them win a jackpot or gain the winning hand.
The new plaza doesn’t even have a tacked up state map.
While some might think tourist information facilities are only near state borders or are outdated in the age of GPS technology, that’s not the case here in Connecticut.
The remodeled service plazas on I-95 in Milford and Route 15 in North Haven have 5-foot-tall I-Pad-like kiosks that provide information about restaurants, shops, hotels, community events, church fairs, and more.
Roughly ten exits south of the Massachusetts border, the southbound Plainfield Service Plaza has an informational kiosk just like the ones in Milford and North Haven.
In fact, the Ionescu Technologies website states that “upcoming locations” for the kiosks will be in all service plazas on I-395, including Montville, I-95, and Route 15.
However, Wayland Benbow, the Director of Leasing for Project Service, the contractor responsible for renovating the state’s service plazas, admitted in May 2012 to Patch that the rollout is based on where it is “economically viable”.
It’s safe to say the kiosk was not deemed economically viable at the Montville rest stop since it was never installed, but hopefully that can be revisited.
Additionally, the Southeastern Council of Governments , Greater Mystic Visitor’s Bureau , Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce , or the Connecticut Department of Culture and Tourism should step up to the plate and setup an attractive portable trailer as a welcome center with staff that could help travelers.
The trailer could be located in the auto parking lot before the service plaza building with large signs that would welcome visitors.
While the plaza is just south of The Last Green Valley , an attractive display could give travelers a reason to turn around and head north.
The Connecticut Department of Culture and Tourism has a good reputation of operating staffed welcome centers including those in Greenwich on Route 15, Darien and Westbrook on I-95 North, North Stonington on I-95 South, Danbury on I-84 East, and West Willington on I-84 West.
According to the Connecticut Rest Area and Service Plaza Study , such welcome centers “give travelers a sample of what Connecticut and the region has to offer and encourage people to visit tourist destinations and patronize local businesses. Welcome centers are often visitors’ initial contact with the state, providing both a first impression and a lasting image.”
The study specifically proposed a welcome center at the Montville plaza but did not propose them for plazas in Milford and North Haven.
These tourist information services could be used by travelers leaving the casinos from Route 2A and traveling on I-395 South towards Waterford and I-95 South toward New Haven.
Roughly 24,710 vehicles traveled this portion of I-395 in 2005, according to the study, which also stated there is a 37.9% projected increase in traffic for the year 2020.
Since there are already tourism information centers in Westbrook, North Stonington, and Plainfield, it would bridge a gap that currently exists in Eastern Connecticut.
Let’s give tourists plenty of reasons to stop and smell the roses in southeastern Connecticut so they can help invest in the future of the various businesses and organizations that call the region home.