On June 29 the Athens Welcome Center announced it will now provide free virtual resources for visitors to explore the Classic City remotely through a new mobile-friendly website.
On VirtualAthens.com, users are provided with easy access to downloadable self-guided tours, dining and attraction information and contact with certified Georgia travel counselors via the virtual center’s live chat tool.
Since closing its doors in March due to COVID-19, the Athens Welcome Center has been considering ways in which it can continue to serve the public. Athens Welcome Center interim director Michelle Nguyen said it has been a trial-and-error experience trying to maintain the center’s community engagement over the past few months.
“We’ve been considering launching VirtualAthens.com since late May and early June as we needed to figure out ways to provide returning visitors and students with visitor information services,” Nguyen said.
Upon visiting VirtualAthens.com, users will have direct and easy access to multiple platforms providing immersive online experiences of Athens’ most popular landmarks. Some of the resources provided include the Athens Welcome Center website, Explore Georgia, Historic Athens and the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“As visitors seek safe ways to experience Athens, VirtualAthens.com will be a great resource in providing recommendations on places to go and where to eat,” Director of the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau Katie Williams said in a press release. “The Athens CVB looks forward to being a partner in promoting this new virtual resource for our visitors.”
One feature visitors can utilize for recommendations of places to eat and visit is the live chat tool. Athens Welcome Center staff will be online Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to deliver personalized customer service through this feature.
Nguyen said she considers the live chat tool to be the most useful aspect of the online platform. Not only do users receive travel recommendations from certified Georgia travel counselors, but they also get the chance to speak to people with a genuine passion for the city of Athens itself.
“We’re Athenians ourselves, so we love supporting local attractions, businesses and just Athens as a whole,” Nguyen said. “You really can’t get that type of personal touch from a Google search or a travel website.”
Nguyen recommends visitors take a virtual tour of the Church-Waddel-Brumby House which can be found on the Athens Welcome Center website. This historic home is a place Nguyen particularly misses showing to tourists, as it is believed to be the oldest surviving house in Athens and kickstarted historic preservation throughout the city.
VirtualAthens.com will remain live as the Athens Welcome Center gears up to safely reopen under reduced hours. As the center reopens, staff will operate an outdoor information kiosk located on the porch of the Church-Waddel-Brumby House to address any questions or concerns from visitors.