How can you convince a 21st century tourist that a particular tourist site is worth a visit? How can you get the attention of Generation Z members when you only have a limited amount of time (until you lose their attention)? Over the years the tourism world has learned how to deal with this issue creatively and has developed a genre called Contents Tourism. The genre tries to find the magic formula between the world of historical concepts and the current discourse. Dr. Yaron Meiri, CEO and owner of Orpan Group, which has established dozens of theming sites around the world, provides a glimpse into one of hottest topics of the tourism world.
The Mission: providing a different tourist experience
Let us take a moment to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a tourist site manager who wants to attract visitors to his own backyard.; He knows the profile of his young clients: youngsters with split attention who jump from screen to screen, aiming for the most excitement with the least amount of “irrelevant” information. With this information, the manager may be able to determine what not to do, such as not taking his clients on a four-hour tour to go through all of the exhibits in alphabetical order. So what can he do to make a strong impression on his visitors? This is where the genre of contents/theming tourism comes into play. The guiding principle is simple: invite your visitors to view the tourist experience through the eyes of only one specific theme, and to only travel through the stations that connect us to that theme. The themes of course can be as diverse, creative and delusional. It does not matter if the theme of the tour is witches, knights, Thai food, or figures from the Renaissance movement – the main issue is that the tour has one defined purpose and content.
The solution so far is excellent, but still insufficient. Once we’ve decided to employ a theme to capture the attention of visitors, we need to figure out how to make the experience accessible to them: in a way that the visitor feels like he’s “touching” the experience. This assignment necessitates a lot of creative thinking as well as the use of the most up-to-date multimedia tools.
Up and down in time
Orpan’s response to the issues described in the preceding paragraphs was the “Time Elevator” and “Time Capsule”, which are two related concepts. The aim was to take tourists on an experience following one geographical spot through time travel, where they gradually “ascend” in the history layers of that region, and then when they reach the “surface”. they actually grasp what they were seeing.
In the time elevator in Jerusalem, for example, spectators sat on a platform of swivel chairs and moved down the shaft, encountering situations that brought them together with people from the era of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, through various empires, and finally to the current situation in the State of Israel. The time travel, which attempted to excite viewers through a multi-sensory experience of movement, viewing, sound and other stimuli, worked to bring them the “Jerusalem experience” in a concise, concentrated and effective way. In a similar format, Orpan has also implemented the concept in Rome, Toledo, and Agra in India.
“I Am Jerusalem” Experience
What could be more amazing for a tourist who believes he is the star of the show at the site he is visiting? The concept of becoming an actor who incorporates the visitors to be active in the visit, similar to what is done in many escape rooms, may be quite pleasant and produce a meaningful experience. One such location is the historic Hallein salt mine near Salzburg, Austria. Visitors are seated in mini-carriages that travel down the mine without the use of screens .All visitors are given miners’ clothes to enter the atmosphere when the tour is guided by a “real” miner who tells visitors the story of the mine. The tour is accompanied by pyrotechnics of sounds and lights in the original physical site. The amazing effects and human participation creates an extraordinary tourist experience, and here, too, zooming in the central theme is what makes the visitor experience.
Singing walls and talking towers
Another contents tourism trend is the use of physical tourism buildings as a platform for screening multimedia installations. This breathes new life into the site. Of course, this practice does not devalue the physical site, but rather adds to it. In this case, we will also use a Holy City site as an example; the Tower of David is a well-known fortress located within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. A spectacular audio visual performance that revives the silent stones of the fortress and the wall that protects it has been installed to tell its story and the story of the city in general. This allows them to tell their own story in an artistic and eye-catching manner. The combination of heritage, art, and high-performance technology creates a one-of-a-kind encounter between visitors to the site.
Content in Covid Era
Cracking the perfect thematic concept for the visitors is no easy task, but with Covid19 in the air and the visitors staying at home, the challenge becomes even more tricky! Despite the fact that this mission is difficult, there are heritage site managers who have succeeded in bringing their content to the digital realm .A great example is the Mosaic 3D’s app, which took the famous Acropolis heritage site and created a perfect digital simulation for it. The visitor can walk around the complex’s ancient buildings from their home and get a glimpse of what life was like in the 5th century BC. We at Orpan also developed an app for the hut site of Israel’s founder, David Ben-Gurion, to bring the educational values that come with visiting the site to the small screen. Needless to say, the apps cannot replace the experience that the physical presence of the location provides.
Covid19 challenges our creativity
The medium is absolutely the message
To summarize, contents/theming tourism appears to be the ultimate solution to the tourism industry’s dilemma given by the screens generation. Amazing outcomes for visitors can be obtained with the help of a thematic focus and the wrapping of the experience in an attractive package with innovative multimedia accessories. “The medium is the message” as Marshall McLuhan correctly stated. As a result, the components of the experience should take a lead role.
Last words about crises: even on days when the world is frequently quarantined in the midst of international pandemics, operators in the tourism industry must think outside the box. The genre strives to reinvent itself throughout time, developing new technologies to enhance the visitor’s experience.