Talking Tourism: Reimagining museum experiences in the capital

Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Ottawa Tourism. 

Ottawa's museums play a pivotal role in the city's tourism ecosystem, attracting visitors from across the globe.

COVID-19 presented many challenges for the local institutions, forcing museums to rethink their approach to customer experience. This has resulted in new and innovative tours, exhibits and attractions.

In this episode of Talking Tourism, Canadian Museum of Nature marketing officer John Swettenham sits down with Mark Sutcliffe to discuss how museums in the capital are continuing to evolve. 

To hear the full podcast, please watch the video above. 

Prefer an audio version? Listen to the conversation on Soundcloud or Spotify!

SUTCLIFFE: How have museums in Ottawa adapted to the many challenges of the pandemic? 

SWETTENHAM: It's certainly been a challenge since we had to close on a dime. Our first question was what can we do to keep people engaged during this time, since national museums in the capital would normally be seeing close to three million visitors a year. The first thing we did at the Museums of Nature was picked up a camera and started doing virtual tours. It was a simple approach but it provided access to folks in a time when they otherwise couldn't access that content. We've become more sophisticated in our approach over time and now guests can do a 360 tour themselves, and digitally visit the museum.

SUTCLIFFE: Has this reshaped how you think about the museum and its relationship with the public and event planners even after COVID?

SWETTENHAM: It really has. We expect the virtual side of the museum to continue on permanently even when we can welcome guests back inside. We also hosted many virtual events during the pandemic and that is likely a trend that will also continue, but more as a hybrid approach. We're already fielding questions about weddings and meetings incorporating a digital component to allow more people to attend. These are just changes that will have to become a part of our business model moving forward. 

SUTCLIFFE: John, tell me more about the importance of museums to the local community and the tourism experience?

SWETTENHAM: People think of Ottawa as a museums town, which is really fantastic to Ottawa as a brand. More than any other city you get a flavour of Canada as a whole because of the stories that are shared through art, science and history at these local institutions. Museums really define Ottawa as "Canada in one city" and museums are always a top attractant for tourists.