The attractions and tourism sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Kelly Molson, co-founder at Rubber Cheese, looks at the three things visitor attractions can be focusing on while currently closed.
Three things visitor attractions should focus on during the Covid-19 pandemic
March has been a whirlwind from start to finish and a highly anxious time for us all, not least the Attraction and Tourism sector. Covid-19, the Coronavirus, has swept through the UK, forcing many of our beloved attractions clients to close for the foreseeable, and furlough their incredible teams.
But in this time of uncertainty, one thing is certain, this crisis won’t last forever.
We are seeing positive news from overseas, with visitor attractions and museums opening again in China and Japan. Capacity is capped at 20-50% and 100% of tickets need to be booked online. Visitors are also being asked to pre-book time slots, and adhere to the social distancing guidelines in place.
Will you be ready when that happens here? And what exactly will the new normal look like?
These are the three things visitor attractions can and should be focusing on right now to be ready.
1. Planning for re-opening
We can’t stress this enough. Now is the time to get your website ready, because when you re-open, things are likely going to be far from the norm.
How easy is it to currently buy a ticket online? And can your website really handle all your ticket sales, even at a max capacity of 50%? Depending on the size of your attraction, that still may be a lot of transactions. Keep in mind that your audience will have varying levels of digital experience, many people prefer to buy tickets in person, so this may be a new or unfamiliar experience for them.
- Test your booking journey. Is the process easy? Can you remove any unnecessary steps? Is it fully accessible? How about the after sales messages, anything that can be improved or needs to be updated?
- Simplifying this process now is going to ensure your future visitors can purchase online quickly and smoothly.
- Check your booking system. Do you have a cap on online ticket sales in place that needs to be lifted or extended? How stable is your booking system, and how good is your support if it’s suddenly overwhelmed?
- Now might be a good time to start those conversations about increased support capacity…
And what about the rest of the site? How’s that working for you? Can visitors easily find what they need, will your safety messages be clear and prominent?
Use this time to take a long hard look at your site.
- Remove distractions. Once a user is past the basket page, they’re ready to purchase – remove any items that distract them from making the payment. This means streamlining the main navigation by removing any navigational links.
- Label buttons clearly. This ensures users know what to expect when they click. For example, instead of saying “continue”, say “continue to payment”. This gives people more confidence during the journey.
- Include a progress bar. Let users know exactly how many steps they need to take to purchase their tickets and what stage they’re currently at.
- Include a basket overview. Make sure there’s either a review order page or a basket overview on each page of checkout. Users need to feel confident they’ve made the correct selection before they proceed with their payment.
Our free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Doubling Your Visitor Numbers, includes a whole chapter of simple but powerful UX tips – download in full by following this link. Click here to download.
Review your current (pre Covid-19) visitor profiles. Are they likely to change post lockdown? If you previously had a high percentage of visits from concessions are these likely to reduce when you reopen? Are there changes you need to make to your website now taking this into account?
Review your analytics post lockdown – anything glaring that needs to be tweaked? You may need to shift spend from one area to another post lockdown, Google ads to Facebook for example. Anything you can do now that you’ve been putting off for a while will all help your reopening plans.
Time slots – Could introducing time slots work for your attraction? If so, that may be a huge help in easing the flow of visitors and ensuring you don’t go over the capped capacity limit. Depending on how your website has been developed and booking system integrated, this might not be completely straightforward. Now’s the time to check in with your dev team to see if you have the ability to offer time slots, and if that requires any additional development work.
If you offer annual passes, what are you doing about the expiry dates that happen during the lockdown? Are you pausing them or extending the valid to dates? It’s good to get a head start on this work now or be overwhelmed with thousands that need updating later.
Photo by Tuguldur Baatar on Unsplash
If you have an online shop, but can’t currently fulfil orders for physical items – how about adding a pre-order function so that loyal fans can buy now and receive the gift when you’re back open?
- Gift Cards. People are still having birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations during lockdown, so buying a digital gift voucher could be the perfect present for them now to celebrate with later.
For the 13th year in a row (as of Oct 2019), gift cards remain the most popular items on shoppers’ wish lists. Why?
It boils down to consumers realising their value and benefits, which include:
- They can be sent instantly
- You can buy them digitally anywhere, anytime
- They can be more personal
- They can be gifted and easily sent to friends or family who live far away
- Virtual gift cards can’t be lost
The option to purchase a digital e-card for a visitor attraction is even more powerful for consumers. It allows them to gift experiences or you could say, gift memories.
We talk more about this in our free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Doubling Your Visitor Numbers, which you can download in full by following this link. Click here to download.
How prominent is your donation information? Can it be seen clearly on the homepage or is it hidden away somewhere? If you can, now might be a good time to push that donation button and message to the homepage and help people help you.
Can you offer something lovely but low cost in return? Maybe anyone who donates during the lockdown can have their name added to a special supporters page on the website, which they can share with friends to show their love?
2. Retaining your audience
Social media is your biggest platform to engage with and retain your existing audience. If you can’t be open, then you can still be part of the conversation.
According to a survey conducted by Social Chain Agency, 45% of people are spending longer on social media/messaging services – where can you see that shift happening in your audiences? You may have limited time or resources right now, but you can choose the channel that works best for you now and focus on that.
We’ve seen brilliant examples of social media creativity from all kinds of attractions during lockdown. Maybe now is the time to try something different and take a few risks!
When the National Cowboy Museum closed and everyone went home, they handed the Twitter account over to security guard Tim, who lets face it – is the hero we all need right now! Tim the Cowboy is gloriously showcasing the museum’s collections, signing off every tweet with Thanks, Tim – totally adorable. It’s gained the museum a huge amount of free publicity and an army of new followers. #HashtagTheCowboy
The Shedd Aquarium let their penguins, Edward and Annie out of their exhibits to explore the aquarium and visit the other animals! We got to watch incredible footage of them waddling around the aquarium and learn new facts about penguins at the same time.
User Generated Content
You have an army of fans at home, how can you engage with them, entertain them and generate content at the same time? Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure asked their followers to submit a video of them explaining their favourite dinosaur facts which they then made into one big video!
How can you help your audiences right now? There’s children being homeschooled, and it’s now the Easter break in the UK so I’m sure parents could with an extra helping had to keep them entertained.
- Could you offer downloadable colouring books or science lessons on YouTube?
- Record bedtime stories?
- How about letting the kids submit designs for new areas of your attraction, a playground etc, or how about asking them to design a brand new roller coaster ride?
Another great example from Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure – they’ve created a free downloadable activity pack, with colouring in, mask making and puzzle activities. As a dinosaur lover myself, I might just download that for me later…
Photo by Andrea Enríquez Cousiño on Unsplash
And what about the big kids? How about something simple like branded Zoom backgrounds of their favourite attractions.
Many of us are craving distraction for the situation we’re in. Online sales of craft kits have increased by 117% and bread makers -up a whopping 652%
If you’re a vineyard or distillery – how about offering virtual tasting sessions? If you can still post out wine, bundle up a case order with a virtual tasting session for a great price!
Peak Experience Lab has a great blog highlighting a load of brilliant ideas. Some for people who need social connection and to feel “oneness”, others for people who are bored, feel adrift, feel stir-crazy, or are looking for personal growth.
You could try engaging with your audience in a different way. Have you been putting off starting that podcast? Now’s the perfect time to get started, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune either.
Hannah Hethmon Owner/Executive Producer at Better Lemon Creative Audio wrote this brilliant blog post: How To: Super Quick DIY Podcasting for Museums & Other Nonprofits Closed by COVID-19 which pretty much says what it does on the tin!
You could also grab her book Your Museum Needs a Podcast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Podcasting on a Budget for Museums, History Organizations, and Cultural Nonprofits
Not for the shy and retiring, but TikTok is building a huge following. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, is now the time to get involved? According to data from SensorTower, TikTok generated 113 million downloads from the app store in February, making it the app’s best month ever for both installs and revenue.
Our friends at Sookio have a great blog and online course to help you use TikTok for your organisation.
3. Planning for future
We can’t assume that once this crisis is over, things will return to our past idea of normal. What’s important is that we move forward seeing this as an opportunity, a chance to experiment and make positive change.
Are virtual experiences going to become more normal for us? Maybe, but the opportunist in me sees that you can engage with different audiences all around the world because of it. Or with people that can’t visit your attraction for whatever reason.
Live streaming on Facebook, and now Virtual tours and experiences, – they’ve allowed us to see insides of places we may never be able to visit, or places far away that we love but can’t visit often.
I’ve watched One Man, Two Guvnors from the National Theatre, taken a Street View tour of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and checked out Legoland Florida, all from the comfort of my sofa. No, it’s absolutely not the same as being there, but it certainly opens up a lot more opportunities to showcase your attractions nationally and internationally and build brand awareness.
I hope you’ve found our ideas and insight useful. If there is anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss, please get in touch.
We are here to support the industry as much as we can. It’s our company vision to improve how visitor attractions interact, engage and delight their guests online, so you can deliver a more enjoyable and accessible experience!
Rubber Cheese is an award-winning web design and development agency with studios in Herts/Essex and Cambridge. We build remarkable online systems, websites and applications that create better experiences for visitor attractions and their guests.