What Strategies Can UK Heritage Sites Use to Increase Visitor Engagement through AR Tours?

Revenue for heritage tourism is a major component of the UK economy. Immersive, digital experiences are becoming more prevalent, with tourists increasingly expecting interactive, technological elements as part of the cultural experience. By harnessing the power of augmented reality (AR), heritage sites can deepen visitor engagement, enrich their experience and ultimately, increase visitor numbers. With the rise of mobile technology, implementing AR tours has never been more feasible. This article explores the strategies UK heritage sites can employ to boost visitor engagement through AR tours.

Utilize AR for Interactive Storytelling

Understanding the past through the lens of the present can be challenging for many visitors. Augmented reality sweeps away this hindrance by transforming abstract concepts into tangible, interactive experiences. Imagine standing on the battlefield at Hastings, with AR technology superimposing the Norman and Saxon armies onto the landscape, providing a visceral understanding of the battle.

Interactive storytelling through AR doesn't just enhance the visitor's understanding of the event; it also evokes an emotional connection. By integrating AR into their tours, heritage sites can engage visitors on a deeper, more personal level. The use of AR also allows for personalisation, catering to different learning styles and interests.

Enhance Accessibility with Augmented reality

Accessibility is a major concern for heritage sites. This includes not only physical accessibility but also the accessibility of information. AR can play a significant role in making heritage sites more accessible to all users, irrespective of their abilities.

Augmented reality can provide an immersive experience to visitors who might not be able to physically access certain parts of the site. For example, someone with mobility issues might not be able to climb up the stairs to the top of a castle tower, but with AR, they can explore the view from the top.

Additionally, AR can also make information more accessible by presenting it in a range of formats, such as sign language or audio descriptions for visually impaired visitors.

Incorporate AR in Marketing Efforts

In today's digital age, potential tourists rely heavily on mobile technologies for planning and booking their trips. By integrating AR-based experiences into marketing efforts, UK heritage sites can significantly increase their visibility and appeal to tech-savvy tourists.

Augmented Reality can be used to create interactive brochures, where users can scan images to reveal more detailed information, or even preview the AR experiences they would have on-site. This strategy not only gives potential visitors a taste of what they can expect but also positions the heritage site as innovative and forward-thinking.

Foster User-Generated Content through AR Experiences

User-generated content (UGC) is one of the most powerful forms of marketing in today's social media-dominated landscape. AR experiences are not only engaging for the visitor but also provide a unique opportunity for UGC.

By designing AR experiences that encourage users to take photos or videos, heritage sites can create a stream of UGC that can be shared on social media. For example, an AR experience where visitors can take a selfie with a virtual Roman soldier at Hadrian's Wall would likely be shared widely, providing free marketing for the heritage site.

Invest in Continuous Upgradation and Evolution

The digital world is fast-paced, with technologies constantly evolving. Augmented reality is no different. To maintain visitor interest and engagement, it's crucial that heritage sites keep their AR experiences updated and in line with the latest advancements.

This can mean anything from regularly updating the content of the AR experience to keep it fresh and relevant, to upgrading the underlying technology to improve the user experience. Regular monitoring and feedback from visitors can provide valuable insights into what is working and what needs improvement, helping to guide these updates.

By strategically employing these tactics, UK heritage sites can leverage the power of AR to not only enhance the visitor experience but also attract a wider audience. In an increasingly digital world, embracing such technologies is no longer optional but essential for the survival and growth of the heritage tourism industry.

AR and Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is a growing concern in the heritage tourism sector. It focuses on the minimisation of negative environmental impact, and the preservation of cultural heritage sites for future generations. AR technology can directly contribute to these goals.

Augmented reality is an example of non-invasive digital heritage interpretation. By using AR, heritage sites can provide a rich, immersive experience without having to alter the physical state of the site. For example, AR can be used to reconstruct a ruined castle or visualise how a prehistoric cave might have looked, all without touching a single stone. This helps to preserve the integrity of the site, while still delivering an engaging visitor experience.

Moreover, AR can also support more sustainable visitor management practices. By analysing data from AR applications, heritage sites can gain valuable insights into visitor behaviour, such as popular routes or points of interest. This information can be used to manage the visitor flow more effectively, reducing overcrowding and wear and tear on sensitive areas.

In addition, AR can also promote local economic development, another key component of sustainable tourism. For instance, AR tours can integrate local stories and traditions, or direct visitors to nearby businesses, thereby supporting the local community.

The Future of AR in Heritage Tourism

As the digital world continues to evolve, the role of augmented reality in heritage tourism is set to expand. Innovations in immersive technology will continue to enhance the visitor experience, augmenting not only what we see, but also what we hear, touch and even smell.

In the near future, we can expect to see more advanced forms of AR, such as mixed reality (MR). This technology combines real and virtual elements in real time, creating a more immersive and interactive experience. For example, visitors to historic houses might be able to 'touch' virtual artefacts or 'interact' with virtual characters.

The integration of AR with other cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data, also holds exciting possibilities. These technologies can enable more personalised and adaptive AR experiences, enhancing the user experience even further.

Beyond this, the potential applications of AR in heritage tourism are only limited by our imagination. As Google Scholar and other research platforms continue to publish studies on the subject, we can expect new ideas and approaches to emerge.


In conclusion, augmented reality offers significant potential to enhance visitor engagement at UK heritage sites. Through interactive storytelling, enhanced accessibility, innovative marketing strategies, user-generated content and continuous upgradation, AR can transform the visitor experience.

Moreover, AR can also support sustainable tourism, by enabling non-invasive digital interpretation and more effective visitor management. With ongoing advancements in immersive technology and digital interpretation, the role of AR in heritage tourism is set to grow, offering exciting prospects for the future.

However, to unlock the full potential of AR, heritage sites need to invest not only in technology, but also in skills and knowledge. They need to understand how to use AR effectively, and be ready to adapt to the fast-paced digital world. With the right approach, AR can help UK heritage sites thrive in the digital age, while preserving their invaluable cultural heritage for generations to come.