Visitor attractions - challenges and opportunities
19 June 2017
Visitor attractions and theme parks are experiencing increasing pressures from a number of sources. First, customers are tightening the purse strings with uncertainty in the air. Our own consumer sentiment survey showed that 26% of people expect to be worse off this year. So with household budgets stretched, attractions are under more pressure to enhance their customer experience and demonstrate value for money. Second, customers are more tech savvy and have access to range of entertainment at their fingertips raising their expectation of what attractions can offer them.
In our new report on the attraction sector we look at organisations can tackle these challenges in a number of ways such as embracing technology, broadening their appeal and evolving their offer.
Increasingly, technology permeates through every aspect of the guest experience – from research and booking, through to the actual visit and then post visit, often via social media. A key challenge for theme parks and attractions is investing in the right hardware and software that fits their needs in a sector that is rapidly changing. One example is websites. Latest research carried out by Visit England (2015) showed around 93% of visitor attractions had websites but on average, less than a third (29%) had an online booking facility. Customers are spending more time researching their day out so it’s vital that websites are up-to-date and responsive. At some larger venues we are seeing wearable technology and cashless systems (eg. wristbands) which encompass entry ticket, fast pass, ride schedule, dining, retail, hotel key and even parking. Some attractions are also enhancing the experience by creating apps that guests can download and use whilst visiting.
Another trend is the use of virtual reality which has been introduced at a number of venues. Some 65% of guests (according to industry research by Omnico), want or expect virtual or augmented reality in theme parks within the next three years – both in terms of rides but also as part of the wider experience (eg. use of robots as guides).
The best theme parks and attractions make reinvestment a top priority to maintain a competitive edge and grow their customer base. With increasing demand for unique and immersive experiences, one of the ways they have been doing this is by creating new partnerships with Creative Industries as part of their supply chain. Intellectual Property providers continue to develop and strengthen partnership arrangements with some of the larger theme parks across the UK. Other organisations have thought of novel ways to tap into new markets. For example, The National Trust has partnered with Sport England to promote physical activity in open spaces encouraging activities from water sports to park runs. These partnerships can be less capital intensive and provide businesses with some flexibility to adapt to changing trends.
Evolving the offer
With the growth in handheld devices and technology for the home such as on-demand television and online gaming, attractions are increasingly facing challenges from a greater choice of in-home entertainment for consumers. Providing live interactive experiences is one way of countering this as we have seen with the popularity of concerts, festivals and e-sports events. Encouragingly, we are also seeing attractions step up to the plate to offer unique interactive experiences for their customers. David Lloyd have announced plans for a series of ‘Adventure Parks’ across the U.K which are multi-activity centres featuring everything from zip wires to climbing walls and trampolines. Merlin Entertainments has announced similar plans for a new outdoor attraction in Birmingham which will include skydiving and high ropes. Retail are also getting involved, blending the retail experience with entertainment to create ‘Retailtainment’ - a phenomenon that may be more common in the US and is still a relatively new concept in the U.K. However, a recent joint initiative between Disney and Westfield in London suggests this is something that could become more familiar.
With more competition and technology coming into the attractions sector, the pressure is on organisations to come up with new ways to attract and retain customers. Yet despite this, for companies who have innovation at the heart of their strategy, there are opportunities to provide unique, immersive and interactive experiences which in times of the more discerning customer, provide value for money.