Year in Review: Looking back at 2020

It's been a rollercoaster of a year! We look back at 2020's biggest challenges & trends… and the positives we can all take into 2021.

As we celebrated the new year in January 2020, the attractions industry stood among the fastest growing economic sectors, not only during the previous year but the entire decade. Looking forward to 2020 would have indicated more of the same. However, as we now know, any prediction of business as usual should never be taken for granted.

Looking back on this year, the uncertain, and ultimately devastating economic impact from COVID-19 on our industry cannot be understated. However, it's also been inspiring to see that even in the face of such adversity, the attractions industry demonstrated its adaptability, positivity, and resilience to a level beyond what anyone might have predicted. Even before authorities mandated social distancing and capacity restrictions, the attractions industry was among the first sectors to prioritise smart and safe adaptation. Whether through adopting virtual queuing, contactless ticketing, or temporarily pivoting their business model altogether, attractions everywhere became examples of how dynamic businesses could safely adapt to new circumstances.

However, even as COVID-19 dominated public attention, concerns about sustainability did not retract either. With recent public polls showing that 82% of people remain very or somewhat concerned about current climate change, the public continues to look for attractions to do their part, as seem here. Socially, on the other hand, the Black Lives Matter movement brought a long-overdue focus on inclusivity to the front of many people's minds. Alongside adapting to changing guest demographics, 2020 has well and truly been a catalyst for macro-scale change which our industry must respond to as we enter 2021.

While the unforeseen developments that shaped 2020 cannot be understated, it’s important to focus on the positives.

Embracing change

To echo the words of Josh D'Amaro, Disney’s Chairman of Parks, Products & Experiences, "We learned a lot in the Covid era, including how nimble we can be in a time when urgency is so important." During this past year, we witnessed a significant turning point where technology has shifted to become essential. By forcing guests and operators to take a literal step back from physical interaction, the pandemic brought digital interactivity to the fore. As well as creating new expectations around digital accessibility, this shift has accelerated long-term trends and fast-forwarded our industry into a new era of connected digital and physical experiences.

Thankfully, getting through this period was made easier by the coming together of our industry. As we faced a period of increasing uncertainty, we saw an immediate industry-wide pivot to virtual events and communication. This meant, alongside up-to-date guidance from the IAAPA, Blooloop, and others in our professional networks, that we were able to keep in touch and share best practice advice as soon as it became available.

Helping our industry adapt

As the pandemic morphed from what first seemed to be a short-term problem into a long- term worldwide issue, it quickly became apparent that digital solutions were going to be key to our industry’s survival. To meet this need, here at Attractions.io we also experienced how nimble we could be to support our customers in new ways. We’re really proud to have made virtual queuing a reality for attractions looking for ways to reopen safely and adapt to the new normal.

We've also been working hard to optimise our existing platform features including ticketing, mobile food ordering and targeted on-site messaging, which are ideal for supporting social distancing. We wanted to make sure our technology could deliver the most value and support for our new and existing customers alike.

We are fortunate to be in a position to share a few examples of how our technology has been helping new customers, such as:

Colchester Zoo Guest App

Colchester Zoo

We were delighted to help Colchester Zoo improve their guest experience with a smart guest app. As they reopened, Colchester Zoo's new app has helped keep their guests safe on-site, thanks to one-way route navigation and targeted messaging capabilities.

Djurs Sommerland

For Danish amusement park Djurs Sommerland, we integrated digital ticketing into their new app. Combined with other features such as real-time messaging, and heatmaps which highlight guest flow, the app made reopening the park a safer and smoother experience for guests and management alike.

Camel Creek

For Cornish Adventure Park Camel Creek, we created an app that helped streamline the food and beverage experience through mobile food ordering as well as reduce their environmental footprint with digital mapping.

Oakfield Park

This Irish heritage attraction partnered with us to launch a mobile app to make this Christmas a safer and less stressful time for both them and their guests.

Supporting our customers

Meanwhile, with our existing customers, we helped attractions adapt to COVID-19 by rolling out new features, including mobile food ordering for Paultons Park and virtual queuing at Legoland Florida.

We also saw our clients using existing app capabilities to their full extent this year. For some, this meant maintaining guest engagement when closed, through consistent in-app messaging and push notifications about reopening dates and procedures. For others, this meant leveraging cashless payment capabilities and virtual queuing to aid social distancing.

Meanwhile, some attractions took advantage of in-app mapping to go paperless and magnify their long term sustainability efforts while also improving guest safety through reduced contact.

What’s next for Attractions.io?

For Attractions.io, helping our industry adapt throughout 2020 has only reinforced our mission to empower attractions to create connected digital guest journeys, where technology seamlessly blends with and enhances every part of the visitor experience. Our platform has been designed from the ground up to connect multiple systems, creating a single, branded guest interface that enhances the experience and adds value for visitors throughout their visit.

It's been great to work with a growing network of other industry technology vendors this year to bring our customers the connected, digital experiences that help delight their guests and deliver business results, and together we can deliver an end-to-end solution that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

This year also saw Attractions.io transition to a remote-first operation and also welcomed some new members to our Sales, Development and Delivery teams. We are continuing to grow as a business and if you know anyone who might be a good fit for a fast-growing organisation working to build the future of the attractions industry, we are currently recruiting for Customer Success, Sales, and Development roles.

The Future

Going into 2021, we're optimistic about the next chapter for our industry. Although there is still some uncertainty on the horizon, there is also plenty of opportunity.

As well as pandemic restrictions easing and a gradual return to normality, we are also looking forward to the prolonged impact of some of the more positive trends this year has catalysed. From smarter technology use to more socially aware and environmentally sustainable attractions, we’re confident that this year’s challenges will make our industry even stronger and more relevant.

We're excited to see the technology many attractions put in place this year, shifting its role from supporting social distancing to delivering ongoing guest experience improvements. As we move towards an increasingly digitised future, attractions have a real opportunity to future-proof their operations and get ready for a new era of guest experiences.

When it comes to climate consciousness, attractions have a role to play, as well (stay tuned for greenloop in April!) As consumers shift their purchasing behaviour based on a growing environmental consciousness, attractions can introduce more eco-friendly initiatives without reducing profitability by learning from their experiences this year. Socially too, as the average visitor profile becomes more diverse, attractions can empower positive change by highlighting their efforts to be inclusive destinations for all guests.  

Both now and in the future, our core message is straightforward — guest demand is more robust than ever, and smart attractions will continue to grow sustainably.

There are some big things on our roadmap too, which we're excited to reveal soon. We've been hard at work investing in making our technology platform even more powerful. We are confident that these new updates will empower our customers to increase critical metrics, including guest satisfaction, revenue generation, and marketing effectiveness.

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