In some news that is bound to recharge local tourism stakeholders, downtown Reno will soon be home to a regional visitors center.

As with most ground breaking ideas in the community, this didn't come from the City or the local hotel/casinos or even the RSCVA. It's the brainchild of Reno Envy owner Scott Dunseath, who saw an opportunity and took the time to start conversing with local agencies about it. The planning process took Scott down two parallel paths, working with the RSCVA to see if the idea was even feasible, and working with the City of Reno to find a home for it.

The RSCVA latched onto the idea like a three-year-old latches onto a fresh lollypop. Scott was told by the RSCVA that a visitors center is mentioned in their charter, but that they have always lacked the funds to do build and maintain one.

He also soon discovered dozens of agencies, from the Dept. of Wildlife to the county parks and rec dept, eager to participate and ready to feed Scott content such as brochures, pamphlets and other material that never see the light of day because of a local monopoly on tourist brochure stands.

There's one company in particular (I forget the name) that is responsible for installing and maintaining all those tourism brochure stands you see in hotels, motels, and some restaurants in town. If you have something to offer tourists, and want your brochure on their display, you have to pay up. If you are a hotel or restaurant, and you want a set of brochures to offer tourists as they walk in or out or your establishment, you have to pay this company for that privilege. It's a HUGE barrier to promoting regional tourism.

So you can imagine the excitement when many of these government agencies, who have stacks of unused brochures and tourist info, found out from Scott Dunseath their tourism literature may finally have a home and see the light of day.

The visitors center will be located in the rear portion of Reno Envy's store on Sierra Street. Reno Envy leases the very front portion of a much larger space, while the City of Reno controls the back of the space. After months of negotiating, the City of Reno, RSCVA and Scott crafted a deal that benefits everyone the best. There was preliminary talk of locating the visitors center in the old CitiCenter site, but the RSCVA and Scott both felt that location was too far north to achieve decent foot traffic.

New visitor center signs will go up in front of Reno Envy, and the store and visitors center will be one continuous open space. In addition, Scott is working with Nevada Dept of Transportation to put 'Tourist Info' signs on I-80's signs indicating downtown freeway exits, and working with RTC to install directional tourist center signs on Virginia Street as well.

Scott, who is also now vice-president of the Reno Riverwalk Merchant's Association, will maintain the visitor's center, thus helping the RSCVA and City of Reno from having to put out money to staff it.

I'm really excited about this for a myriad of reasons. First, it will be a true regional visitors center just a few blocks from where many of our visitors stay; a visitors center that transcends the egos and politics that contribute heavily to this region not being promoted properly. Second, it opens up the region to tourists in a way that's currently not possible without making said tourist do a ton of research online. As of late, promoting this region's activities has become a disjointed effort as various organizations look out for their own best interest or their member's best interests. This includes smaller organizations like the Midtown Merchants Association, the Riverwalk Association, the Cal Ave Merchants Assoc, whose membership-driven structure prevents them from promoting businesses even within their own districts who aren't members, to more regional agencies like the city Parks and Rec Dept and Dept. of Forestry who lack the funds to dedicate to tourism. And then there are those businesses who don't fall into any of the district organizations, like Sweet Treats by Kyle and Great Basin Community Food Co-Op.

So having a regional tourism center where ALL of these agencies can feed content to might be the first step in creating a synched vertically-aligned culture of tourism and show tourists that "yeah, we actually want you here and there's great things to do!"

I look forward to working with Scott myself as well, and seeing how this site and my forthcoming app can partner with our new visitors center.

And to all local agencies and organizations (this means you, Midtown Merchants Assoc and Wells Avenue Merchant's Assoc), THE VISITORS CENTER WANTS YOUR INFO! Make sure you drop by Reno Envy and talk to Scott about having your brochures, pamphlets and flyers on display at the visitors center. The more that tourists know about our region, from camp-sites and ski areas to the best restaurants and bars, the better.