Being an earnest relic with a great length of history, Hoa Lo gradually peels off its formal skin to be friendlier and take a closer step towards visitors, especially young Vietnamese visitors.

As a dark tourist destination with long-standing historical values, Hoa Lo Prison Relic has continuously tried to improve the experience for visitors as well as to approach new tourist markets.

Originally, Hoa Lo mostly concentrated on the international visitor segment; however, from 2017 until now, they have constantly reached out to domestic visitors, especially Gen Zers, on social media. In 2019, the number of Hoa Lo’s Vietnamese visitors reached 30%, half of which were Vietnamese students.

From February 2020, as borders were close to international visitors and forced lockdowns from times to times in compliance with regulations on social distance, travel restrictions or national quarantine imposed against Covid-19, Hoa Lo still managed quite well and attracted 108 thousand visitors, which meant Hoa Lo was able to retain the number of visitors from its domestic market. This can be considered as the result of countless efforts in renewing its destination image for the past few years, and from enhancing visitors’ experiences based on what history offers.

Rejuvenate the content to target a new potential market

Hoa Lo considers spreading traditional and patriotic values to everyone, especially the young generation, as its top task and thus, has implemented since 2017 many special programs for students such as "Hoa Lo Prison Relic Competition", "I learn to be a guide" or "The Golden Bell" and attract an increasing number of young visitors here.

Besides, Hoa Lo still ensures its offering of historical information and the national spirit while adjusting its approaches to easily blend in with the young generation at the same time through taking advantage of social media power nowadays.

176977834_737370136898539_6773790503355951139_n-1024x997Source: Hoa Lo Prison Relic Facebook Page

In addition to creating a brand new page on Instagram, a social platform that is very popular with young people, Hoa Lo also focused on building interesting yet educational content on its Facebook page such as a series about love stories of the political prisoners in Hoa Lo at that time in an easy-to-understand and youthful perspective without engraving the authenticity of the stories.

A series of hashtags such as #HistoTEA, #Mộtthờisôinổi or #HOALOfact with viral memes and catchphrases has greatly contributed to transforming the image of Hoa Lo from a dreadful and solemn prison to the image of an interesting and friendly destination to youngsters. Especially, #HistoTEA, which blends "Histo" in "history" with “TEA" in "spill the tea",  is a series of not-so-famous stories to spread the love of history and positive values ​​to readers in a witty manner but without detracting from seriousness, reaching enormous attention from the public, especially from the young generations.

Thanks to such actions towards young travelers, Hoa Lo recorded the number of student visitors accounting for 60% out of the total of 108,000 domestic visitors in 2020.

Develop unique products to enhance the visitor's experiences

177604117_738408736794679_5294651955425802961_n-1024x683Source: Hoa Lo Prison Relic Facebook Page

From the end of June 2020, which meant just about four months after the first outbreak occurred, Hoa Lo started a series of quality night tours. On the contradictory side of other night tours which often take place in scary location and deliver a creepy and frightening experience, Hoa Lo's night tours are the exact opposite as it advises visitors to prepare tissues, not to wipe off the tears of fear but the tears of being touched by the scenes performed live on the site during the visit to bring visitors the authentic feelings while helping them understand more about the devastation Vietnamese people went through during wartime.

Hoa Lo revived the true historical stories by its scene in the prison to bring emotional experiences to visitors. The series of night tours started with "Sacred Night 1 – Shining the Vietnamese spirit" with content of gratitude to the patriotic martyrs at Hoa Lo Prison, followed by "Sacred Night 2 –Living like flowers", which concentrated on female soldiers in the prison at that time. With each topic, Hoa Lo exploits different stories to bring diversity of emotions throughout the tour. After each tour, Hoa Lo also collected its visitors’ comments and feedback to constantly innovate in order to satisfy its visitors at the optimal level.

In addition, for solo or small-grouped visitors, Hoa Lo provides the audio guide with 35 true stories related to the display in the prison relic so that they can experience their visit and journey in their own way.

179254685_739317333370486_7388416103993874370_n-1024x768Source: Hoa Lo Prison Relic Facebook Page

In July, Hoa Lo is expected to continue to introduce its third night tour theme of  "Sacred Night 3 – Fire of the Young" based on young soldiers who have devoted their youth to fighting and sacrificing for their beliefs and their home country. This new night tour is highly anticipated from the Vietnamese travelers, especially as it follows the success of the first two night tour series.

Despite just starting to change its image, Hoa Lo has done some remarkable work, representing that each destination can make suitable changes accordingly to whatever the situation is to renew their destination image.

Source: Destination Review