Set in a four-acre garden in the heart of the Tupgill Estate, Coverdale, The Forbidden Corner welcomes a unique family experience for up to 120,000 visitors a year. Yet, over the coming months, it will enhance the onsite customer experience by bringing their recognisable characters to life within a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises via 5G enabled Augmented Reality interfaces.
Working with The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbed and Trials project, Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY), the popular North Yorkshire Dales attraction will be among the first to utilise the new 5G network which is due to go live in Coverdale in June 2021.
The Forbidden Corner, originally built as a private folly but opened to the public in 1994, is working with Flo-culture, a partner of the MANY project, and a specialist in developing audience engagement applications. The partnership will see the transformation of The Forbidden Corners traditional brass rubbing experience transformed into a 5G driven immersive augmented reality digital quest adventure.
Katherine Pearson, Managing Director of Flo-culture explains ‘A 5G network will allow us to immerse visitors at Forbidden Corner in a real-time augmented reality experience. The uniqueness of Forbidden Corner will be brought to life in a totally new way. This is one of our solutions which will help Forbidden Corner respond to the expectation that today’s visitors have: reliable mobile connectivity, and access to enhanced experiences via their own mobile devices.
Johnny and Wendy Reeves, who have managed the attraction for over 20 years, said ‘our customers are loyal. We want to be able to reward this loyalty by offering them something different every time they visit. We have been unable to do that in the past, so it is exciting that the 5G network, which MANY will bring, will enable us to develop this type of adventure with Katherine and her team. We believe the digital quest will give our customers an improved and enhanced experience, which will serve as a great reminder of their day, and will motivate them to return again, with their friends, in the not-too-distant future, whilst also allowing us to take advantage of the domestic stay-cationers post Covid’.’
In addition, evolving to a digital quest allows the attraction to significantly reduce its use of paper and the costs of printing. Johnny explains ‘we currently print 140,000 flyers and 100,000 guides per year for our visitors – working on the basis that each group has one or two. We, also, print between 100,000 and 120,000 brass rubbing sheets – which cannot be used on wet days due to the carbon. More than likely’ Johnny adds ‘these are thrown away once the visitor has left’. The Forbidden Corner’s new app, developed by Flo-culture, which will host the digital quest, allows the attraction to cut down on the paper whilst giving the customer a better quality, and more memorable experience’.
Katherine adds ‘The Forbidden Corner team can send notifications, via their app, to customers advising them of new promotions or special events whilst they are on and off site. This allows the business to continue to build and maintain the relationship with the customer even after they have left. This will be an extremely important aspect of sustainability as attractions emerge from COVID-19’.
As part of the £6.4 million MANY project, which is part funded by DCMS, Flo-culture will work with Forbidden Corner on a use case to explore the benefits of an enhanced digital experience for tourist attractions and validate how it can support rural communities – both socially and economically – into the future.
Hugely impacted by the last year, The Forbidden Corner will look to use the 5G network to deliver this interactive and fun experience whilst, also, improving the overall customer journey. Enhancing the visitor experience will result in more memorable days out, and will motivate visitors to spread the word, and to return to the attraction.
Gary Reeves, IT Manager at the attraction said ‘a 5G network opens up so many opportunities for us in the future. We can speed up the customer experience on the welcome desk so visitors – who currently have to show a booking reference but struggle to even access their emails with the lack of signal – can use a QR code on arrival; to offering refreshments at points round the attractions, which - via card machines - can link back to our stock management systems’.
Yet the 5G network also ensures that the attraction can ensure the safety and confidence of the customers in what is likely to be a recover year for the whole industry, but particularly those who serve the day-tripper, domestic customer.
Gary explains ‘we are accredited with the Government’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ and ‘Know before you Go’ marks but this enhanced network will allow us to see – in real time – which sections of the folly are busy. This means we can deploy staff at a moment’s notice rather than using past experience as to where bottlenecks arise. This information is crucial in a time when we need to ensure our customers adhere to social distancing’.
Future developments with the MANY team may include exploring how real time GPS mapping can support the attractions in the ability to monitor bottlenecks, providing automated notifications to visitors, helping them avoid lines and queues and staying safe.
By developing an enhanced experience for Forbidden Corner, the project can further evidence the ripple effect it can have on an area via visitors staying for longer. Allowing the Dales - as a whole - to further benefit from the likely staycation boom, which will happen this year.