Solana Beach chamber takes new direction with visitor services

By Claire Harlin

If you’ve ever passed by the Visitor Information Center at the Solana Beach train station during the off-season, you probably saw the kiosk attendant sitting idle and reading a book.

“There’s virtually no traffic to the kiosk in the off-season,” said Carolyn Cohen, president of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce, which manages visitor services for the city. “People are either Googling on their computer or cell phones and finding our website or the chamber office.”

The chamber is re-evaluating the way it offers visitor information services and, to keep up with technology, it is launching several new electronic features to help visitors get around in conjunction with decreasing the hours of the train station information kiosk. There will no longer be an employee at the kiosk year-round; it will be staffed only from the day after Fiesta del Sol (June 3 in 2013) until the last day of the horse races at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The employee will be moved to the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce office at 210 Plaza Street, which Cohen said gets much more foot traffic than the kiosk.

The chamber is installing touchscreen visitor guides at a number of locations around the city. One device, which allows visitors to browse the sights of Solana Beach, has already been installed at the chamber office at 210 Plaza Street. Coming within the next week will be installations at two hotels, the Marriott and the Holiday Inn, as well as two time shares, the Sandpebble and the Winner’s Circle. There will also be a device at Dave Stubbs Real Estate at 614 South Sierra.

The chamber is also working on a smartphone app, called “Solana Beach,” that will be on the market for Android devices within the next few months, approximately. An Apple version for iPhones is still in test mode, Cohen said.

Cohen presented to the Solana Beach City Council on June 13 the chamber’s new direction in serving visitors, and it was well received. The city grants the chamber $15,000 to be used for visitor services, about a fourth of its entire visitor services budget.

Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said she agreed that the Visitor Information Center was under used, and she often walks by to find the employee of the kiosk just reading a book. However, she questioned whether a smartphone app is the best use of public funding because she is aware of the time and money that goes into developing an app.

Councilman Mike Nichols said he thinks the app is a great idea, something he would appreciate if offered at a place he was visiting. He also brought up the possibility of leasing out the Visitor Information Center at the train station during the nice months that it will be dormant.

The Solana Beach Chamber helped the city develop the informational website last year, and it recently changed the name to

to be more specific and make the website more visible.