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The Experiential (and Financial) Benefits of Audio Guides

Published: 28 Mar 2024

In the world of guided tours, the debate often centres around the choice between audio guides and multimedia guides with screens. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the context and goals of the experience (as well as budget) but the simplicity of audio should not be overlooked in its ability to create an authentic connection with the environment.

Crafting an engaging audio guide is an art form. It involves not only presenting information but also creating an emotional connection with your audience.

From writing a compelling narrative, choosing the right voice talent, incorporating soundscapes, keeping it engaging and concise and adding interactive elements ATS can help you master the art of storytelling through sound.

When done right, your audio guide can transform a visit into a memorable journey, leaving a lasting impression on your visitors.

When we think audio guides work best:

1. Maintaining Tranquillity and Reverence:

Settings: Places of worship, meditation spaces, contemplative areas.

Visitors can receive compelling narratives, historical context and cultural insights whilst immersing themselves in the spiritual ambiance of the surroundings.  without intruding on the sanctity of prayer or quiet reflection.

Many religious institutions face challenges in balancing tourism with their primary function. Striking a careful balance is crucial to ensure these sacred spaces remain welcoming to both worshippers and visitors. Audio guides can tell the rich story of the place of worship without intruding on the sanctity of prayer or quiet reflection.

The ATS tour of Royal Hospital Chelsea used audio-only to great effect, with one memorable moment being in the historic Wren Chapel. Visitors who take the audio tour are greeted with the powerful sound of the organ in 3D Binaural sound, regardless of whether or not there is a service happening - immediately creating an appropriate and impactful atmosphere.

2. Where additional storytelling will enhance your existing displays:

Settings: Museums and visitor attractions already using electronic signage and digital displays.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of storytelling to bring your collection together or even to assist with orientation and wayfinding. The D-Day Story for example, has a whole host of interactive displays and exhibits but also provides an audio tour which is available on a handset or can be played on a mobile phone. It’s available in French and German and also has a family tour options, suitable for younger visitors.

You can also consider incorporating interactive elements into your audio guide. This could involve asking thought-provoking questions or encouraging listeners to explore the exhibits further. Interactive elements not only engage the audience but also make the experience more memorable.

3. Outdoor Environments:

Settings: Serene gardens, historical ruins, natural landscapes, architectural wonders. An audio guide allows visitors to delve into the information it provides without compromising their experience of the physical space. This ensures they can still absorb the sights and atmosphere surrounding them. When ATS were commissioned by Levens Hall to create a tour for their gardens, it was agreed that audio was the best approach as there was already so much to see in the gardens. The audio tour features interviews with the Head Gardener, along with recordings of birds and wildlife.

4. Encouraging a Personal Pace:

Settings: Museums with vast collections, sprawling exhibition spaces, locations encouraging reflection and contemplation. Gone are the days of herding crowds on a guided tour.  Audio guides empower visitors to explore at their own pace, lingering on exhibits that pique their curiosity, skipping past those that don't and taking breaks at their leisure. This freedom allows visitors to personalise their own visit, shaping their museum experience according to their individual interests.

5. Enhancing Accessibility:

Opportunity: Cater to a wider audience, including those with visual impairments as well as to international visitors. Audio guides offer an alternative for those who face challenges with screens. In scenarios where information needs to be conveyed without relying on visuals, such as in low-light environments or for visually impaired visitors, audio guides become indispensable. Features like downloadable transcripts or braille descriptions can further enhance accessibility. We have also written an article focussing on Audio Descriptive tours specifically for visitors with sight impairments. You can read the article Enhancing Accessibility Through Digital Content here.

Additionally, multilingual options cater to a global audience, removing language barriers and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to learn and connect with the stories being told.

Financial benefits for providing audio guides:

In the quest for financial sustainability, audio guides can also unlock a range of financial benefits for cultural and heritage sites.

Direct Revenue:

  • Rental Fees: The most straightforward financial benefit is charging a fixed price per visitor for the audio guides.
  • Bundled Packages: Attractions can bundle audio guide rental with admission tickets, creating a more attractive package deal and potentially increasing overall ticket revenue.

Indirect Revenue:

  • Increased Visitor Engagement: Audio guides can lead to a more engaging and enriching experience, hopefully encouraging visitors to spend more time and money in the gift shop or cafe.
  • Membership Promotion: Sites can use audio guides to promote membership benefits by offering discounts on rental fees.

Cost Savings:

  • Reduced Staffing Needs: Audio guides can supplement the need for large guided tour groups, potentially reducing staff costs for tour guides.
  • Improved Efficiency: Streamlined visitor flow through self-guided exploration with audio guides can improve overall operational efficiency.

It's important to weigh the cost of implementing and maintaining an audio guide system against the potential revenue gains. However, the opportunity for increased visitor engagement, positive word-of-mouth, and future revenue streams makes audio guides a financially attractive option for many visitor attractions.

Choosing the right guide solution:

The benefits of audio guides and multimedia guides are undeniable, but selecting the right format and content provider is crucial. Consider factors such as the size and complexity of your space, your target audience, and the budget available.

If you're navigating this decision, feel free to involve us at the planning stage. Our expertise can help you weigh the power of audio versus the need for a screen, ensuring your digital visitor guide delivers an unforgettable experience for your audience.

We have also written an article on how to create an engaging audio guide, you can read The Art of Storytelling Through Sound here.

Great storytelling (and a flair for the creative!) is at the heart of what we do and the expert teams at ATS can advise on the best way to bring your story to life. So get in touch for a chat.

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