HOW CREATIVE AUDIO MAKES THE DIFFERENCE FOR A MILLION TOURISTS
“We started our shuttle service yesterday and were overrun with customers. And we made the front page of Arizona Daily Star. The audio tour is a hit!”
–James DeGrood, Sabino Shuttle Operations Manager, Regional Partnering Center
When the Regional Partnering Center in Tucson, AZ was awarded the permit by the US Forest Service to operate the shuttle service in the Coronado National Forest’s immensely popular Sabino Canyon, they wanted to convey much more than just facts to the more than one million visitors who came to the area every year. They wanted to give them an experience.
“The shuttle provides a number of opportunities for people. For folks with mobility issues or young people, it’s a way to get up in the canyon. For others, it adds a lot of opportunities besides just walking or riding. People can get off and get back on if they want to play along the water or have a picnic.” –Heidi Schewel, Coronado National Forest
To make the 45-minute, 3.8-mile (6.2-km) shuttle ride memorable and relatable, a dull list of historical and geographical facts on an audio tour would not do. Sabino Canyon is an American natural treasure, and immersing people fully in its history and wonders was a must for the Regional Partnering Center. Enter AudioConexus, a global tourism technology company with a passion for storytelling.
“We knew instantly the importance of this story for the Coronado National Forest. Its history, scenic beauty, and its national significance needed to be brought to life in a compelling way,” says Ange Berlin, Creative VP for AudioConexus. Sabino Canyon is home to many southern U.S. wildlife species, including deer, javelina, skunks, tortoises, rattlesnakes and mountain lions. The history of the area goes back 12 million years, when the formation of the Santa Catalina Mountains from the receding ice age shaped the massive canyon and desert area we see today. Large waterfalls and ancient forested areas display dramatic scenery along the trails, along with thousands of species of plant life that make their home in the Forest. Stories of the earliest human occupants, the Native American Hohokam people, are still imprinted on the land and come to life on the tour.
Crafting an audio tour that captured the full experience of the canyon trails was important to the Regional Partnering Center. A tour that not only brought the rich heritage of this special place to life, but also paid homage to its history and inhabitants was top of mind. That’s why Berlin’s Creative team took a special interest in the route and experienced the ride with the Regional Partnering Center drivers on an intensive tour before writing a word. “We wanted to tell the whole story,” says Berlin. “And now it’s there for everyone to experience.”
The road through the canyon is narrow, at high elevations in places, and the new electric shuttles coming later this year are wider. There are lots of pedestrians walking the area as well, so it’s important for the driver to concentrate on the road. Pre-recorded narration is broadcast over a central system, leaving the driver free to focus on safety.
After indepth collaboration with the Center and its partners, the process of designing the right audio tour for visitors began with researching the right story. “We believe in storytelling as a way into people’s hearts,” says Berlin. “We want this visit to be memorable, long after you step off the shuttle. That means we tell the hidden story, not just trees and how tall they are, but what happened to make the trees so impressive, what animals you can’t see that live in them, and what about the day we almost lost all those trees? That’s what makes people remember the experience.”
Since the audio tour went live in March 2019, the shuttle has been overrun with visitors, and Regional Partnering Center officials expect a full season of curious tourists, eager to hop on for the experience. “Word of mouth is spreading, and we are anticipating a very busy high season,” says James DeGrood, Sabino Shuttle Operations Manager, Regional Partnering Center.
Already, the Center is planning for an expanded shuttle fleet later this year. The audio system was designed with expandable capability to accommodate the anticipated influx of both English and Spanish visitors. “The multi-language capability of the AudioConexus system provides the full experience of the tour to all passengers, whatever language they prefer,” says Berlin.
Farhad Moghimi, Regional Partnering Center Officer agrees. “It’s important to offer visitors to the region the full benefit of our rich heritage and natural wonders in both of our regional languages, so residents can choose which is most meaningful to them.”
Sabino Canyon’s new 62-passenger zero-emission electric shuttles will be equipped with a creative audio narration and interpretive system available in English and Spanish, and will carry passengers safely, quietly and efficiently through the natural wonders of Sabino Canyon.
What’s Your Next Story?
Want to hear how the right creative audio tour can grow your business? Contact AudioConexus. We’d love to hear all about the story of your tour.