Evaluation of the Eastern Kentucky Rural Highway Information Project 511 Tourism Service
The Eastern Kentucky Rural Highway Information Project involved establishing a 511 Premium Tourism Service Package. In 2006, Kentucky was only the second state to offer tourism related services through its 511 Travel System, placing the state in a position to offer insights gained from the project to other states considering the implementation of a similar program. Lessons learned from Kentucky's experience with launching and managing a multicounty tourism information system will be invaluable. To that end, this study reviewed the activities undertaken during launch and early operations of the Southern and Eastern Kentucky 511 Tourism Service, and conducted a survey of users in an effort to gauge public use and receptiveness to this service. This report offers lessons learned during the start-up phase of the project pertaining to institutional issues, technical issues, and public-private partnership issues. In addition, a survey was administered to 600 users of the 511 Tourism Service, in an effort to gauge current public sentiment about the service as well as discover additional features users would like the service to offer in the future.
These lessons learned involve some key technical issues that arose from the experiences of the project team, and how they solved these issues. The technical issues discussed below include data collection issues, and ways to ensure high quality data.
- Collect the 511 data with committed workers in an organized manner.
Use committed workers. Most of Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association's (SEKTDA) data collection relied on volunteers during the initial data collection phase of the project. Relying on volunteers for the data collection process took longer and initially was less consistent than it would have been if there had been full-time staff responsible. If having a full time commitment is not feasible, then consideration should be given to contracting the data collection process out to another entity.
- Organize information using meaningful categories. Information was organized by county and tourism category, making the collection, verification and data entry processes more manageable.
- Ensure high quality 511 data.
Define what high quality data is: If feasible, the research team should determine the characteristics of high quality data before data collection has begun. Though this was not the case for the 511 Tourism service project team in the beginning, they were able to determine what quality data would be as the project progressed. Some characteristics of quality data include: (1) properties or attractions that were consistently described or articulated; (2) operational information such as operating hours, rates, etc. are accurate; and (3) contact information are up-to-date.
Compare Articulation Levels: Once the data has been collected, the articulation levels should be compared to ensure consistency. One approach to comparing the articulation levels involves comparison (1) between different properties by the same data collector; and (2) for the same property but by different data collectors. However, one way to ensure that properties are consistently articulated is to use a standardized reporting format that guides the data collection process and shapes the description of the properties/attractions.
Verify the data: The project team placed high importance on verifying the accuracy of database information. Volunteers from corridor teams, tourism commissions and chambers of commerce were involved in the verification phase of the process. Once the 511 Tourism Information Call Center was operational, call center operators contacted property owners to verify the property information. Verifying the information ensured that operators were providing the most accurate information to 511 Tourism users.
The experiences from this project will help provide guidance to both the designers and deployers of 511 systems. If this lessons learned guidance is followed, the resulting 511 tourist service (as well as other 511 services) should provide 511 service with more accurate 511 information. This in turn should produce higher levels of customer satisfaction and mobility, with minimal impact to the cost and schedule of the project.