Local, national, and international business have not ground to a halt because of COVID-19. There’s been an incredible amount of resilience and initiative in finding quick and clever ways to overcome all the challenges the virus has put up. From the growth of products like Zoom to event platforms like Meetup adapting to allow the booking of online events, tech has played a leading role. So can tech get tourist attractions back on track too?
Freefall and bounce back
Travel and tourism are two global industries that have been among the heaviest hit since the pandemic took hold. With many countries restricting air travel to slow the spread of the virus, the impact has seen scheduled airline flights freefall by a whopping 50% from January - July 2020.
As a result, global revenue for travel and tourism in 2020 has fallen by almost 35% from 2019 to a little over $447Bn. The UK has also felt the effects in a big way. According to predicted figures from Visit Britain, inbound tourism for the UK (as at June 2020) is set to fall by 59%, while domestic tourism spend, even accounting for much of the hospitality sector reopening in early July, is forecast to be down by almost 50%.
Following a push by the media and travel sector, the rise of the UK staycation continues to gather pace. Devon and Cornwall both top the lists of preferred destinations, so there are signs we can lessen the COVID impact. In fact, our own Ocean City of Plymouth looks set to bounce back quickest in a report covering 35 national cities.
But getting people to visit tourist hotspots solves only half the problem – wherever they are in the world. Getting them to visit the attractions – and spending their hard-earned cash – poses another sizeable challenge.
Post-lockdown guidelines have allowed attractions to reopen their doors to the public once more. But with restrictions in place, it’s meant a reduced number of visitors. Affecting everything from theme parks and family-friendly experiences to formal gardens, properties, or heritage sites, every attraction has had to learn how to adapt to the new changes.
Entry fees are central to many attraction’s income, but with social distancing still in place, no venue can risk the threat of lengthy queues. This has seen an increase in the introduction of online booking systems being implemented by attractions that allow visitors to book specific time slots. Rather than just showing up, pre-booked slots help minimise queues and ease congestion once inside. While these changes may improve the customer experience overall, the limited booking slots restrict potential visitor numbers, drastically reducing potential revenue from the gates.
For attractions that charge for entry, booking can be a great way to get a commitment from visitors. But for those with no entry fees, the threat of visitors not showing up still looms. Plans, weather, and circumstances can all change meaning fewer people through the gates, despite pre-booking their entry. Therefore, the already reduced visitor numbers due to limits on bookings are further impacted by a loss of additional secondary income from café and shop sales.
Technology helping to fill the void
To tackle this, attractions have had to find smarter ways to generate both revenue and market exposure – and tech has been crucial to the process. During lockdown attractions, like Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium, that are important in terms of conservation and education set up live video feeds and events to keep their visitors engaged while they weren’t allowed to visit in person.
Even adding a ‘donate’ button to their website to raise much-needed revenue. But post-lockdown and with visitors inside, the hard work starts in attempting to make up for the shortfall in lost revenue, so giving visitors more bang for their buck is the key to success.
Smart information screams, augmented reality experiences and even interactive queue systems to keep you entertained as you achingly queue for the main attraction – have all made great inroads into improving the visitor experience.
Maximise your existing streams
But there is a relatively easy way to maximise revenue with a concentrated focus on ‘second spends’. Basically, how and where people can spend additional money inside any attraction, it should prove to be an instant income earner without a huge outlay.
For decades, leaving any attraction through its gift shop provided one last opportunity to boost income before punters finally left. Incredibly, not every attraction does it. But once inside, there’s a captive audience ready to buy anything and everything.
For theme parks especially, this is a valuable income stream, and has been for years, as thrill-seekers have traditionally bought photos and souvenirs of themselves on each ride. But now – for an extra fee – there’s the offer of buying a digital pass to buy all digital photos from every ride – all available with a click of a button.
But beyond this, there are huge opportunities that technology can bring, not forgetting the powerful computer visitors carry in their pockets and bags.
Mobile apps have been playing a key role in visitor engagement for years allowing attractions to get direct access to their audience while visitors can access the information that is contextually relevant to them. Is it time to start thinking past just offering a platform for consuming content and actually thinking how they can be used to create a more interactive visitor experience and generate additional income?
Let us help you
As many attractions take the next step in adapting to whatever the new normal will bring, we can expect tech to play an even bigger part in supporting in-app and interactive marketing and on-site activities – from the entrance to the exit and everywhere in between – without the need for human assistance.
We have been exploring how mobile apps can be used to improve the visitor experience while also driving second spends giving attractions a much-needed boost to post-COVID and this led us to developing Spotter. Read more about it and it's benefits here!
If you are looking to see if technology can play a bigger role at any level in your visitor attraction in the coming months, we’d be interested to talk. Get in touch with us today and we’ll help you take the first step.
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