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Earlier this year at #DTTTCampus, we were joined by Léna Deschamps-Peugeot from Urban Expé, who led our workshop on How to Gamify the Visitor Experience. Here is an overview of what was learnt, with some handy takeaways from Lena.

1. What does 'gamifying the visitor experience exactly mean?

Gamifying the visitor’s experience allows to increase the visitor’s interest about the place, the city, the country she/he is visiting. So we use several mechanisms inspired by paper chases, board games, video games, escape games and alternate reality games to improve the visitor’s way of engaging in a touristic experience. For example, hiding a clue in a place to make visitors look around more carefully and see details is a way of gamifying their experience.

2. How can this work for destinations?

Every destination struggles with the idea of conveying an authentic, complete, interesting yet comprehensible image of itself. Sometimes the tourism offer appears as too diversified, sometimes the lack of resources prevents the visitor from going further into her/his discovery… Imagine gaming techniques as tools to connect places, layers of knowledge and people. Thanks to the inherent intuitive nature of forever existing games, the destination is fully conveyed to the public at large! 

Imagine gaming techniques as tools to connect places, layers of knowledge and people.

3. Do you think it could work for any destination or is it dependent on the product offer?

It might exist as many ways of gamifying a visitor’s experience as there are existing destinations! The level of gamification you will choose depends on what or whom you are targeting. You don’t have to go for a costly, cutting-edge technological touristic experience to gamify a destination. As long as your thinking process starts with your existing material and a clear goal, you can sprinkle gaming mechanism on any destination. Some might not even notice that you gamified the whole experience! 

4. What is needed to gamify an experience?

Before gamifying, be certain you need it! Be aware of your goal, strength, weaknesses and available resources (culturally and humanly speaking), to be sure the best way to achieve your goal is by gamifying. 

The first thing needed is the story you want to share and how you engage your target. Everything comes from the narrative you are setting. The gaming techniques you will pick, the medium you will elect to carry your story out, the technology you will use, the communication campaign … everything comes from that storyline. 

Then you need the content. This includes edited content (informative, heritage and nature-related, etc.) and entered data (statistics on flows, user data, etc.). The public is also the creator of content. The mass of this content becomes richer over time, and it’s important to identify the content that will be delivered and used.

With a storyline and content, you will have the big picture and can use gamification to increase in audience and in retention! 

5. Would you say it is easy to implement?

It really depends on how and what you gamify, and the tool you are going to use. First, let’s not forget that gamifying the visitor’s experience does not necessarily rely on new technologies such as a mobile app, augmented reality or virtual reality gear. Paper medium, tangible objects, signage, architecture... are also tools for gamifying the visitor’s experience! Once you have set your goal, you can rationalize the experience and, therefore, the implementation process.

6. What are the challenges?

The main challenge is to be connected with the context, the actual visitor’s use and the tourism issue the destination is facing. Playing with all the layers of the territory, making them readable and visible may be a challenge for the game designer.

The other challenge is to communicate about the experience you are willing to create. There is sufficient budgetary funding granted. Communication is key to generate interest and to embark local tourism relays on.

Finally, the issue of interconnection between the real and the digital realm is central to the new services. The border between the real and the digital is porous, and surely in the future, it will no longer exist as we know it now.

7. What are the main benefits?

The main interest of gamifying the visitors’ experience is to make them active in their discoveries. The level of interactivity enabled by the gamification not only amplifies the memory of their visit but also generates emotion. They connect on a deeper level with the place they are visiting. 

From an economic perspective, gamifying the visitor’s experience rouses the public's interest in extending her/his stay significantly and motivates the visitor to participate in multiple activities when included in the gamified experience.

8. What advice would you give to organisations with no experience or knowledge on gamification?

My first piece of advice is to have a clear idea of the issues you are facing. What is your ultimate goal? What prevents you from reaching it? You also need a great knowledge of your resources, identifying your strengths and weaknesses. You need to compare similar experiences in order to draw benefits of the existing. With those three starting points and a lot of creativity, you are equipped to start your gamifying process.

9. Having run a workshop at #DTTT Campus 2019, what would you say were the most important takeaways for participants? And could you tell us about some of the ideas that were developed?

The most important takeaways were probably to start with a great story to tell and to think out of the box. Working with Oslo’s cultural material, the participants went for the myths and the historical figures of the city and built an experience around that. Choosing human beings (fictional or historical ones) to embody the destination’s story is a great way to create proximity with visitors. Working in groups, with people from different backgrounds, was a good framework to unlock creativity.

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