In the era of modern technology-based marketing, tourism is just one of many industries that have gone digital. Nowadays, we live in a world for which statues and storyboards are no longer enough, witnessing evolution of visitor centres into digital visitor centres. This new approach to servicing customers through a dynamic mix of digital technologies and personal face-to-face consultation not only enhances the perceived service experiences of visitors, but also increases the efficiency of service operations. And with its impressive battle experience in 3D, Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre strongly imposes this new trend through a single message: “Experience the future to learn about the past”.
If you are a fan of video games like I am, you have gone through many battles, fought your way to glory or defeat, and spend sleepless nights stubbornly trying to finish a level while anxiously awaiting to see what happens on the next. However, I’m sure that, just like me, you have never actually been involved in a real battle developing around you digitally. And if, just like me, you would like to experience such a thing, look no further than the interactive Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre that invites everyone to travel through the echoes of Scottish Independence.
The Visitor Centre represents an incredible new experience through its innovative attraction with state-of-the-art 3D battle simulation that transforms the way visitors of all ages learn about Bannockburn. Through use of digital technology, it offers visitors a unique opportunity to take their place on the battlefield, stand face-to-face with fearless medieval warriors, and witness two opposing kings- Robert the Bruce and Edward II, whose tactics in 1314 changed the path of Scotland’s history.
On June 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn Robert Bruce, King of Scots, faced the English army led by Edward II. Edward, keen to retain the stronghold of Stirling Castle, had led a huge army through Scotland to lift the Scots’ siege of his garrison at the Castle. Achieving this was vital to Edward’s hopes of re-establishing his weakening grip on the country, but the army of Robert Bruce stopped him at the Battle of Bannockburn. Over the two days of battle, 23-24 June, the Scots stubborn resistance repeatedly thwarted Edward’s army until it finally found itself trapped by the surrounding terrain with no room manoeuvre its huge force. The result was an unprecedented rout of King Edward’s army.
Seven centuries after the battle Bannockburn, now a drab suburb of Stirling has a new crowning glory: the first tourist attraction in the world to use fight choreography and “state-of-the-art motion-capture techniques” to re-create the spirit, sights and sounds (but not the smells of blood, mud and fear) of medieval warfare. The Bannockburn “experience” is a spectacular triumph for the combined forces of 3D science and historical narrative. As visitors enter, they receive 3D glasses because a majority of the content is rendered in HD 3D. Massive screens simulate moments from the battle, while life-size 3D human images of Robert the Bruce, his soldiers and locals interact with visitors and share stories of their involvement in the battle.
Once a visitor learns as much as he or she can about the conflict, they enter the Battle Room where they take a command position around a video map table capable of recreating the battle. Essentially, it’s a large-scale real time strategy war game allowing visitors to command either the Scottish or English forces to see if they can change history or lead the Scots to victory. The technology is astounding and the scholarship sound. Visitors find themselves ducking beneath flights of arrows, flinching from cavalry charges and receiving confidences from a digital Scottish spy responding to “gesture recognition”. They are also able to take command of the knights and soldiers who fought in 1314, pitting their wits against fellow visitors on the virtual battlefield. The experience is as authentic, as it is breath-taking.
The Battle of Bannockburn centre is situated at one of the most important historic sites in Scotland. Located near the historic city of Stirling, the Bannockburn battleground still evokes the landscape that would have been seen by medieval soldiers in 1314 when the area was a royal hunting park. The new building of the Visitor Centre is located on the very grounds where fighting took place, replacing a visitor centre from the 1970s. The whole project of reconstruction was undertaken for commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014, and was completed three months before the anniversary.
The role of the Centre is concerned with increasing the understanding of two fundamental issues, landscape and its part in the victory and the telling of a remarkable story. No visit to Bannockburn would be complete without taking the short walk from the Visitor Centre to the historic landscape and battlefield. Visitors can see the saltire (heraldic symbol in the form of a diagonal cross) flying proudly in the centre of the Rotunda, with its outlook to Stirling Castle. The landscaping and parkland around the centre allow visitors to appreciate the battleground and restored commemorative monuments, including an iconic statue of Robert the Bruce cast in shimmering bronze. It’s a place for quiet contemplation or to catch one’s breath from the excitement inside.
Regardless of the digital aspect, a visit to Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre is not a lonely experience. Although digital technologies do play a key role in this new concept, it is ultimately customer engagement that builds the cornerstone of any digital visitor centre. Digital technologies are simply a catalyst for enhancing visitors’ experiences. In essence, the set-up of the visitor centre creates an open stage for customer interactions. It is however, ultimately the visitor who decides to which extent service encounters rely on digital technologies, or on face-to-face consultation with travel advisors. I don’t know about you, but I have certainly added a visit to Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre on my ‘to do’ list.