Unlike other popular tourist attractions in Hanoi, the Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long – Hà Nội (known briefly as Thăng Long Imperial Citadel) bear immense intangible values that are not directly visible in the standing monuments. Many of these values can only be appreciated through archaoelogical artifacts or foundations. Visitors to the site, therefore, usually find it hard to appreciate these values, especially when there is no interpretation or explanation services accompanied. In order to address this issue, since the Citadel was inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Cultural Heritage, the Thăng Long – Hà Nội Heritage Conservation Centre has been paying a lot of attention to improving the capacity of the tour guides working on the site, thus meeting the demand of tourists inside and outside Vietnam.
With a view to improving visitors’ experience of the heritage site, in 2017, the Centre initiated a smartphone-based application that provides virtual tour guide service. The application was launched at the beginning of 2018 and marked a real breakthrough in satisfying the demand of visitors to the site.
The use of smartphone-based apps to support tourists’ site appreciation is a leading trend of the digital era and it has major advantages compared with traditional audio-guide methods.
First, this kind of product can take full advantage of multimedia display and demonstration. After installing the application on their personal smartphones, users can read texts, look at photos and watch video clips instead of relying totally on auditory explanation. Second, this application can be downloaded free everywhere at any time regardless of where the users are – on the site or in another country. The only condition is for their mobile phones to be able to service provision website of Apple or Google depending on whether the operating system is IOS or Android.
The flexibility of this application means that it is not simply an on-the-spot tour guide tool but can also serve to effectively promote tourism and teach history of Thăng Long Imperial Citadel. Provided in three languages (Vietnamese, English and Japanese), this application is expected to help remove the barriers of geographical and linguistic differences. Any user of smartphones and similar digital devices who download this application can be potential visitors to the site. The information provided vividly on the application will be of great help to the visitors on the spot. At the same time, it can provoke an interest in exploring the site in any tourists heading for Vietnam and its capital city Hanoi.
Another remarkable advantage of this smartphone-based application is that it enables users, including site visitors, to give feedback and comments on the quality of the services and thus help improve the quality of these services. Users can also make suggestions about what features or extensions should be added to later versions of the application to better meet the needs of the tourists. These inputs and comments from users will be sent to the management board of the Centre and help them make more informed decisions about service improvement at a site that has been recognized on a global level.
After piloting stage in which users’ feedback is collected, the Centre will work with the developers of the application in 2018 to add French and Chinese into the list of language options as well as insert other features so that visitors can be best supported in their experience and exploration of Thăng Long Imperial Citadel, a site that is more than one thousand years old.
Thăng Long – Hà Nội Heritage Conservation Centre