More people are travelling internationally than ever; the number of trips is increasing by millions each year. Just one example:
With the increase of tourism there is a corresponding increase in museum visits from foreign countries. Again, there are numerous studies, but a good example is the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart report about 2015 (from Daimler press release):
- The number of international guests… increased up to 43 percent;
- In July 2015 more than 55 percent of visitors travelled from abroad during this summer month.
One of the beauties of an audio guide is that it can educate and enriches the museum visit, and this is especially valuable to international travellers. However, an audio guide in English is still intimidating for many non-native speakers.
A great audio guide experience in visitors’ native languages will make visitors feel welcomed by the museum, which will result in better reviews on social media sites in those languages, and therefore likely increased visits to the museum from those countries.
There is much discussion about how traditional devices and apps are not satisfying ways of delivering audio guides, neither from a customer experience standpoint nor a business/investment standpoint. Musemerku has one of many excellent current online discussions on that topic, under the title (in German) Die App kann weg! Warum fast keiner mehr eine Museumsapp braucht (my English translation: No more apps! Why hardly anyone needs a museum app anymore).
I completely agree that apps are unwieldy for both the visitor as well as the museum. In fact, I generally see apps as a lose-lose proposition as museum audio guides.
It is often discussed that a responsive website with audio guide content hosted and managed by the museum is a solution. However, such a solution brings with it a set of new headaches for the museum, one of which is dealing with multilingual content. I find that in the exchanges about the future of audio guides, the discussion usually centers on the technology and user experience, but little on multilingual content management.
Yet, since audio guides are all about making richer, more educational and satisfying experiences for the visitor, and increasingly visitors come from different countries, multilingual content for an audio guide should be a key consideration for museums.
In my view, museums should not want to be in the business of managing translations and multilingual voice-overs. If a museum hosts its own multilingual content, it will spend a lot of time producing it (translations + voiceovers) and coordinating updates. If it does not coordinate updates, its content will become stale and unloved by international visitors.
So, following customer demand, let’s move away from unwieldy, inefficient apps and stand-alone devices, but keep in mind offering and managing multilingual audio guides! Specialists can do them very efficiently!