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Landmarks have the power to turn places into global tourist destinations. But for locals, they tend to blend into the backdrop of daily life. The non-stop rhythm of the work-eat-sleep-repeat routine leaves little time to pause and explore the local scenery. When vacation time comes, people often opt for a change of scenery altogether. 

As the coronavirus outbreak and visitor restrictions interrupt international travel, the tourism sector faces the unique challenge of attracting the hometown crowd and regional neighbours. How can cities and officials entice locals to rediscover the cultural landmarks in their own backyard? How can the ordinary be made extraordinary again? How can the ignored be made front of mind? 

Shine a new light on cultural landmarks

Multimedia entices locals to see their landmarks in a new light. Light installations and sensory experiences restore the spirit of a place that often gets lost in the daily shuffle. By highlighting the beauty and illuminating the cultural value of these symbolic spaces, residents are able to see them from new and forgotten angles. Regular visitors are invited to rediscover all the richness these places have to offer.

Projects like the light and sound signature AURA show at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, demonstrate the power that monuments have to attract international visitors and boost domestic tourism. The permanent show welcomes guests to see the church’s artwork and architecture in a new way through an epic and immersive show designed to stir universal emotions and themes. The broad appeal of the experience attracts millennials and guests of every age, including younger generations who are typically less inclined to visit churches. 

Notably, in 2018, 55 percent of the show’s visitors came from across Canada, including Montrealers and day-trippers from within Quebec. AURA has been met with international acclaim, with more than 700 articles about the experience shared in over  25 countries worldwide. But while the show has achieved international reach and success, it’s also been embraced by locals as a new way to engage with their culture and heritage. 

In 2012, Ode à La Vie brought the citizens of Barcelona together to celebrate the life and work of Antoni Gaudi with a multisensory tribute projected on the façade of his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. To ensure the sound and light experience would capture the love and pride locals have for the cultural landmark, extensive research went into the project, including meetings with historians and church officials.

The end result was a 15-minute show that attracted a crowd of more than 32,000 visitors. As Gaudi once said himself, “To do things right, first you need love, then technique.” 

Reconnect people and places with our shared stories

When creating for both international and local tourists, it’s important to place emotion and storytelling at the heart of strong concepts, in order  to reconnect residents to the richness of their surroundings and remind people why places are important to them. By revealing the themes and telling the human stories embedded in architecture and natural landscapes, people can identify with the landmarks while celebrating where they live and their shared identity. 

For the past century, views of Chaudière Falls in Ottawa were hidden behind industrial buildings. To reintroduce the forgotten historic, cultural, and natural landmark to the public, the Ottawa 2017 bureau and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan collaborated with Moment Factory to create Mìwàte, a luminous and musical spectacle. We worked closely with community leaders and council members to respect the environment and understand the historical significance of the site. 

As visitors approached, the beat of hand-drummers and spirited song set a rhythmic undercurrent for the sweeping light projections that intensified the energy and rush of the Falls. The ambient effects stirred an emotional response from movement of the water, an element that is sacred to First Nations peoples. During its 60-day run, Mìwàte hosted more than 45,000 visitors who came to appreciate the newfound cultural significance of the natural landmark. 

At Moment Factory, we believe that storytelling ignites discovery in both forgotten and familiar places. The Mystic Tree Show at Songcheng, a cultural theme park in Hangzhou, China, centres around a thousand-year-old tree to share the legends of the Song dynasty. With 3-D mapping, bespoke lighting, and an original soundtrack, the tree becomes a symbolic gateway to the past, opening a passage for the emperor to speak to his people, and transporting viewers through the storied history of their ancestors.

Rekindle a sense of community and belonging with nighttime experiences

The pandemic has cast the need for warmth, human values, and belonging in a sharper light. Landmarks have always stood as pillars of the community, and now they can provide new ways for people to connect with each other when physically connecting is less possible. At Moment Factory, we have always found innovative ways to bring people together in a variety of environments. Physical distancing requirements present new challenges, but they also create novel opportunities for innovation.

Interactive technology allows people to connect online and offline from a safe distance. For example, in 2017, Moment Factory led a consortium of six firms to illuminate the Jacques Cartier Bridge with real-time social media data. Residents were invited to view hourly shows about the city and its citizens from various lookout points and participate by sharing the hashtag #illuminationMTL. 

As a beacon of the social activity pulsing throughout the city, the architectural landmark became a unifying symbol for the Greater Montreal area—day and night. While the project was initially designed for celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and the 375th anniversary of Montreal, it continues to light the landscape as an emblem of hope and solidarity amidst the pandemic. 

With Regalia in 2019, visitors were invited to connect with a UNESCO world heritage site, Reims Notre-Dame Cathedral, from their mobile devices. To set the stage for the main event, a rich sensory reimagining of the crowning of French Kings, an interactive game let players uncover secrets of the façade through animation and responsive mapping. Participative pre-show experiences like these spark bonds between old and young generations in the community and stimulate the night-time economy. 

Celebrate the wonder in who we are

At Moment Factory, we believe landmarks are much more than brick and mortar. They’re the result of cultural inheritance, human ingenuity, and time-honoured traditions. They represent the best of our collective imagination and they tell the story of our values and aspirations. 

Multimedia narratives make the places that have become ordinary extraordinary again. To revive the wonder in domestic tourism, let’s shine a light on the spaces that make home special and come together to celebrate the people and places that make us who we are.