Getting ready for 12th April – five reopening priorities for UK attractions

We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that UK attractions will be able to reopen soon. Here are our top tips for making the most of 2021.
March 2021

We’re all keeping our fingers crossed in the UK that outdoor attractions will be able to reopen on 12th April, and indoor attractions on 17th May, in line with the government’s plan. Amidst the optimism, there is still understandably some uncertainty, however two things are for sure:

  1. The 2021 season will be a crucial one for our industry.
  2. We can’t wait for our much loved attractions to be able to open again!

So how can we make the most of it? While recovery will ultimately rely on more guests returning to attractions, other factors will determine the long-term sustainability of the attractions industry as a whole.

To state the obvious, the world into which attractions will emerge is set to be rather different than before. Driven both by the direct effects of the pandemic and accelerated long-term trends, guest behaviours, demographics, and desires now look likely to have undergone a permanent change. That said, attractions themselves have changed too. Getting through the pandemic has required incredible operational flexibility from every attraction and a narrowing of focus to refine guest experiences and how revenue is generated.

The attractions that will thrive in the new normal will also leverage this period to set up for sustainable, long-term growth. While meeting this challenge might sound like a daunting task, it doesn't have to be. Ultimately, great attractions are those that face challenges head-on and adapt accordingly. It's also important to remember that as attractions reopen as we move further into 2021, visitors will come back to their favourite experiences.

To help put your attraction on the path towards long-term growth right now, here are five actions to take as your 2021 season begins:

1. Focus on revenue rather than visitor numbers

Predicting visitor numbers for this coming season is not something anyone can do with much certainty. This may sound obvious, but while you may not be able to rely on increasing the number of guests you receive this year, you can still work towards growing your attraction’s bottom line.

In 2021, moving your focus away from visitor numbers is particularly important. Even if you see record demand for entrance to your attraction, are able to open fully and increase capacity, this may not be an ideal long-term strategy. Although research into changing behaviour tells us that many guests may be crowd-wary even after the pandemic ends, this is not the only reason. We’d hedge our bets that less than half of your revenue comes from admissions already – so focus on the low hanging fruit.

To prepare for a more sustainable long-term future, take this time to examine how to optimise other revenue streams. For example, what percentage of your revenue currently comes from food & beverage sales? What if you could increase this further? From our research implementing mobile food ordering, we’ve found that average transaction size increases by 42% compared to walk up sales. What’s more, in 2020, Disney saw an increase in the use of mobile food ordering from 9% to a staggering 84%, with 90% of transactions now being contactless.

Food & beverage is just one example. What about season passes, special events, VIP experiences, retail and other secondary spend channels that you could optimise to maximise guest engagement?

Now is the time to identify all of your revenue points and ensure that your attraction takes every opportunity to direct visitors towards them. After all, maximising visitor spend ultimately means increasing guest engagement. Doing this means creating a seamless, on-brand visitor experience that always leaves guests wanting more regardless of where they are on their journey.  

2. Understand how your guests have changed

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only forced people to alter their shopping and socialising patterns; it has also accelerated ongoing societal changes. As the world emerges from lockdown, attraction guests are more aware than ever of issues surrounding sustainability and climate change. Consequently, attractions need to think about how they can minimise their environmental footprint and inform guests about the steps they’re taking towards improving sustainability across their operations. (Don’t miss the Greenloop sustainability in visitor attractions conference to hear from industry leaders sharing their sustainability experiences.)

There are other demographic changes and new expectations at play too. Read our guest experience trends report for more information on these.

3. Expect flexible communication

The coming year will undoubtedly continue to be a period of rapid change. As guests start planning their return, two-way communication will be vital. Research shows that guests may not be as quick to return to travel as initial projections indicated. Reassuring anxious visitors will therefore require up-to-date messaging from your attraction across every channel.

As changes occur in the lead up to and throughout the 2021 season, your communication should also be more focused on fostering inclusion. Bringing guests together within your brand in a changing situation will also provide the impression of comradeship amongst guests and facilitate greater loyalty. Not least of all, continuous communication also keeps customers constantly aware of your business.

4. Renew your focus on retention and loyalty

According to Harvard Business Review research, companies that rank at the top of their industries for customer satisfaction grow revenue roughly 2.5 times as fast as their industry peers. In 2021, guest loyalty has never been a more indispensable asset.  

As visitor numbers remain uncertain, cultivating individual guests is one of the best investments you can make to increase bottom-line revenue. After all, a satisfied guest is far more likely to become a repeat customer and an effective promoter of your brand. Across the business world, the cost of acquiring a new customer is also estimated to be five times higher than retaining an existing one. For attractions, this same logic holds, research from Omnico found that 84% guests said that personalised offers would make them more likely to visit again in 2021.

To maximise retention and loyalty, attractions can offer memberships and season passes to encourage repeat visits. Delighting loyal customers through rewards programs is also a smart investment this year. Ultimately, attractions should aim to convert guests into brand champions who tell their friends and family how great your attraction is.

5. Leverage digital technology

In 2021, facilitating great guest experiences and driving revenue growth with shrinking visitor numbers necessitates some degree of digital transformation. Rather than something that gets in the way, or a temporary patch, your attraction can use technology as a lever for unlocking long-term growth.

To use technology in this way, there isn’t a quick fix, so this point is much more of a long term play than something you can have in place when you reopen. You need to audit your customer journey, pinpoint where guests feel friction, and understand where your attraction is falling behind. Once you know the problem, you can assess the digital solutions on offer. While it sounds obvious, any solution you deploy should mesh with your operations rather than grate against them. Both careful planning and an organisation-wide mindset geared toward real digital transformation are needed to do this.

Final thoughts

Navigating the 2021 season will be a critical test for every attraction. While much uncertainty still remains, the secret to getting a head start will be enabling your attraction to maximise revenue from every guest and being open to continuous improvement.

In 2021, just like every other year, guests will continue to visit attractions that offer them safe, fun, and accessible experiences. Today more than ever, meeting these criteria means using technology to delight every guest, before, during, and after their visit to your attraction. The key to doing this is creating a holistic digital journey that never misses a beat.

For a step-by-step guide explaining how to create the kind of connected digital guest journey that will help drive both short and long-term growth, check out our webinar.

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March 2021

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