I attended the 2016 Visitor Experience Conference in Philadelphia on October 10. Several recent developments had motivated me to attend:
- Sree Sreenivasan’s talk at the TechniCulture event during Philly Tech Week 2016. At the time he was the Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. The Met’s audio-guide app is available in ten languages!
- The Philadelphia Convention Visitors’ Bureau (PHLCVB)’s ongoing efforts to promote our city as a destination for international visitors.
- Our recent experience translating and subtitling the Global Philadelphia Alliance’s short documentary “Philadelphia: America’s First World Heritage City” for Chinese and Spanish-speaking audiences.
As the owner of a language service partner, I know that speaking to guests in their own language is a great way of welcoming, educating, and entertaining visitors. Attending the Visitor Experience Conference was an opportunity to see how the folks on the front lines of guest communication are shaping visitor experiences, and where the need for language services are most keenly felt.
Of the six presentations of the day, three of them brought up the importance of language accessibility to the visitor experience. Chinese translation is particularly needed, as 2016 has ushered in a new era in reciprocal tourism relations between the United States and China. In their presentation “Guest Experience is a Community Project,” Connie McCaw, Susan Hamley, and Carol Cunningham discussed the impact of language and culture on impressions of visitors from overseas, and the importance of collaboration between all who shape the visitor experience, from websites to lodgings to cultural institutions themselves.
In another panel, new ways to reach teen audiences was demonstrated by the wonderful STAMP (Students at Museums in Philly) partnership between the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Culture Spots. Members of the Teen Council and participating museums created mobile audio-tours; these were also made available in both English and Spanish by the Cultural Alliance. The Michener Museum and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) are using mobile technology and user-generated content to build interest among young people as well.
I also attended a presentation and discussion of the Great Falls Great Food Great Stories project. This innovative visitor experience connects the history of the Great Falls National Historical Park in New Jersey to contemporary life in the town of Paterson, which founding father Alexander Hamilton considered the nation’s first planned industrial city. Storytellers engaged local businesses to present “storyfronts” to share stories of Paterson, food, and the Falls, and posted “wayfinding” signs to blur the line between the falls and the surrounding neighborhoods. To engage the multicultural public of Paterson and express the ongoing importance of immigrants to the city, visitors can experience the project in Spanish, Arabic, and English.
Overall, the 2016 Visitor Experience Conference provided me with lots to think about, and I look forward to keeping in touch with the people I met and talked to over the course of the day. Thank you to the Visitor Experience Group for organizing an interesting and inspiring day.