Barossa Valley Visitor Centre 3

Gateways and Hubs – the re-invented Visitor Centre concept

While there may be ongoing debate about the viability of physical Visitor Centres – regional VICs, tourist attraction entrances, destination visitor centres, etc – we have no doubt that their status as an important feature within a tourism region or destination remains. However, the way they function needs to change to meet today’s needs and become sustainable in the future.

Refocus on what attracts tourists and the things that visitor centres are in a unique position to offer:

  • WIFI and a quiet place to sit
  • Insider information and local secrets and getting it across to visitors
  • Build a reputation for being able to put together an itinerary that is bespoke and personalised because we ask bold questions
  • Things you might need on your journey
  • A taste of things to come
  • A treasure to take home
  • A place that tells the story of the character of the region as a whole, in a way tourists can understand no matter what language they speak
  • Somewhere that sets the standard for the region

Refocus on what tourists need, now.

What entices tourists to your region or destination, how do they enter and move around, how do they exit and what can they take with them, and what brings them back?

Questions to ask:

  1. Location of visitor centres – are they best on the edge or more centrally to the destination;
  2. How the infrastructure should function to engage visitors;
  3. How the infrastructure should look to mark the place in your memory.

What are the options for the evolution of the re-invented Visitor Centre?

Become gateways into, or hubs to service, the local region or destination.

What is a Gateway?

Located on the edge of a region or entrance to a destination, where people are passing through a point before they enter. Works best for destinations or regions dominated by a single entry / exit point. Great example: Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre.

Make it work:

  • Create a definitive built gateway or entrance statement – could be conceived with drive-through or stop and shop alternatives
  • Provide services that are needed on the way in or out – payment of entrance fees, check-in registers, equipment that could be needed inside the destination, etc.
  • Offer packages of food and drink that can be taken into the destination
  • Create services and small events that cater to the beginning and end of a trip – breakfast, late afternoon break stop
  • Create displays that centre around tour routes that begin at your gateway visitor centre
  • Exit via the gift shop.

What is a Hub?

A central point within the destination or region, that provides services that would be needed within the local area. Works best for large destinations or regions with multiple entrance points.

Great example: Barossa Visitor Centre.

Make it work:

  • Re-direct all tour service pick-up points, car hire, bike hire, walking trail departure points, etc. to begin at the visitor centre hub
  • Provide plenty of full day parking
  • Create an icon of the region so visitors are curious and attracted, and locals are proud
  • Provide retail in a shop format with local producers’ wares for sale
  • Offer meals and drinks on site, or very local shops and restaurants
  • Create rotating and short term services and small events that bring people back multiple times during their visit – meet the maker, featured producers showing goods, education sessions. Strong connections with local producers are critical for hub style visitor centres
  • Create displays that entice people to try something they haven’t considered before.

What needs to change?

  1. Refocus on what attracts tourists and what visitor centres are in a unique position to offer
  2. Strong connections with local industry to build bespoke packages
  3. Strong connections with tourism bodies to improve community connection and value
  4. Clever commercialisation to promote the region and provide income opportunities
  5. Rethinking location of visitor centres and how the infrastructure should function and look to best serve the region, what tourists and locals need and how they move around.

Learn more?

Talk to TiCSA or ATIC about VIC accreditation and priorities for re-thinking your VIC space.

Download our E-Book from

Contact us at Studio S2 Architects and let’s just start with a coffee.

Below are links to some interesting examples.


For most tourism businesses, working on your buildings and grounds is a big deal. There is a lot of money and time at stake and can be difficult to know where to start. So let’s just start with a coffee.