21 May 2018 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - Technologically Attractive


Technologically Attractive

Technological advances are enabling attractions to innovate their visitor experience with ever more sensory and immersive experiences

Rebecca McGrath,, Mintel Group
The British Museum’s 3D online platform allows people to scan and print items from its collection, such as Egyptian Pharaoh Amenemhat III photo: © Sketchfab/British Museum
Wizarding World uses holograms to entertain visitors in the queue for Hogwarts Express
Riding the Castle Black elevator wearing Oculus Rift at the Game of Thrones installation
Brunel’s ss Great Britain
Capture the Museum is an innovative on-site experience whereby visitors explore the National Museums of Scotland with mobiles in hand
Capture the Museum is an innovative on-site experience whereby visitors explore the National Museums of Scotland with mobiles in hand
Capture the Museum is an innovative on-site experience whereby visitors explore the National Museums of Scotland with mobiles in hand
The hugely successful poppies installation at the Tower of London attracted over four million visitors photo: ©Richard Lea-Hair and Historic Royal Palace

Mintel’s latest Visitor Attractions UK Report (published December 2014) finds that the domestic visitor attractions industry has generally performed well over the last five years despite the nation’s economic difficulties.

This has largely been thanks to the growing trend for domestic holidays by UK consumers. Overall, visits to UK attractions have increased by 14 per cent since 2009, boosted in large part by this trend towards “staycations” – which has not significantly declined during the country’s economic recovery.

Last year continued to prove successful for sustained growth within the sector, especially following on from the drop in visitor numbers as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the weather-related blip in late 2012.

Looking forward, increased consumer confidence should aid visits to attractions. Although improved personal finances mean that UK consumers may shift their tourism patterns back to overseas destinations, so far indications are that domestic tourism is set to remain well ahead of pre-recession levels. Inbound tourism driven by the ever-increasing popularity of London as a destination and the concerted efforts to entice Chinese tourists should mean that the UK attractions industry will continue to experience good growth over the next five years.

This positive future projection bodes well for the prospects and positive impact of technological advances within the sector. By providing more opportunities for visitor attractions to promote and innovate the experiences that they can offer, combined with the potential for them to become ever-more sensory and immersive, the lines between a fun day out and an educational learning experience are becoming increasingly blurred.

More Immersive Museums
According to exclusive Mintel consumer research, a third of 16-24 year olds who visited an attraction in the last year said that they primarily aimed to have fun and pure enjoyment, in preference to achieving any learning or educational goals.

The good news is that attractions traditionally viewed as ‘educational’ can now increasingly appeal to this younger demographic by incorporating elements deemed to be ‘fun’, thanks to industry-applicable advances in technology.

For example, the British Museum in London uses 3D scanning and printing to showcase artefacts that have previously been off-limits for touching. These perfectly replicated objects allow people to get a more hands-on experience. Working in collaboration with Sketchfab, the museum has released 14 pieces of its collection – including models of busts, statues and sarcophagi – for anyone to download and print using a 3D printer. This new element should appeal particularly to children who are inclined to want to touch and play with items rather than simply be told about something encased inside a glass box.

More sensory and immersive experiences can then be taken to the next level through developments in holograms and virtual reality (VR). Entertainment-based museums have started using holograms to good effect. The ABBA museum in Stockholm uses holograms to enable people to ‘sing along with the band’, whereas Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter uses this technique to entertain visitors while they queue for the Hogwarts Express ride, with Hagrid flying alongside the train on his motorbike, Buckbeak the Hippogriff swooping gracefully over Black Lake and the Weasley twins on their brooms. And there is no reason why this technology cannot be further applied to museums focused on more ‘serious’ topics, perhaps enabling visitors to virtually ‘chat’ with Henry VIII within an historical context.

Virtual reality also appears to be beginning to have a meaningful impact on the leisure industry, particularly following the purchase of Oculus Rift by Facebook. Oculus technology is now being incorporated into the theme park ride experience. For example, a temporary Game of Thrones tv exhibit at London’s O2 Arena earlier this year featured a VR installation that let users ride the Castle Black winch elevator to the top of the 700-foot ice wall, as seen in Season 1, Episode 3, Lord Snow.

But VR technology holds great potential for museums as well, by recreating the eras that people are learning about and immersing visitors within them. Museums could use these techniques to bring history to life and fuse the lines between entertainment and education. Such introductions should therefore increase the appeal of educational museums to more, particularly younger, demographics.

The Oculus Rift virtual technology has even provided a unique solution for stolen works at galleries and museums, with one developer showcasing lost works through a virtual world in a new programme called Museum of Stolen Art, where users can explore a virtual museum filled with art lost through cultural theft, especially during times of conflict, in a bid to raise awareness and aid recovery.

Attractions Get Mobile
Some 47 per cent of people turn up to an attraction on the day without booking a ticket, while 10 per cent download an app to help guide them around or give information about an attraction. One in ten (nine per cent) would like to receive electronic alerts informing them of when a museum located near to them is less busy.

So, it seems that for many people, particularly those living in London, the decision to visit a particular attraction is often fairly spontaneous. To capitalise on this behaviour, visitor attractions need to determine how they can best encourage this spontaneity, inspiring people to spend their free time visiting their attraction in preference to another attraction or activity. Mobile platforms provide one of the best ways in which to achieve this, as operators are able to connect with potential visitors at any time.

iBeacon technology does just that. Developed by Shufdy, the electronic devices are based on a Bluetooth Low Energy system that works along similar lines to GPS. The mobile phone app recognises when it is close to one of these beacons and enables the user to access data relevant to that iBeacon. Through this technology, operators are made aware of when potential visitors are near to their attraction. They can then respond by sending out reminders about currently running special exhibitions and limited-time offers/deals, advise on whether the attraction is busy/quiet, and even inform the mobile user about the current queuing time.

In July 2014, Shufdy teamed up with tourism body Destination Bristol to place more than 200 iBeacons in and around key tourism sites, like Brunel’s ss Great Britain and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Bristol has embraced this technology and is trialling iBeacon across the city in an attempt to boost the city’s visitor attractions.

Operators can improve app penetration by integrating mobile devices such as the smartphone into the attraction itself. This could include the app providing information on the attractions, such as using Near Field Communication (NFC) to access content at different points throughout the attraction, or by enabling people to design their own personalised route based on their particular interests.

Attractions can also use mobile devices such as smartphones to deliver games that add to the experience and appeal to wider demographics. This tactic has been implemented by National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh with its Capture the Museum game. Launched in 2013, this innovative on-site experience allows visitors to explore the galleries with mobiles in hand to seek out exhibits, solve puzzles and claim territories to beat their opponents. Last September, the British Museum teamed up with the new augmented reality mobile game Minecraft – a sandbox indie game in which players build constructions in a 3D-generated world – to create Museumcraft. As part of its Museum of the Future Scheme, which aims to expand the institution’s appeal, the British Museum plans to recreate the entire facility – complete with all its exhibits – in virtual form using this popular video game. It is hoped that by exposing and teaching the younger generation about museums, artefacts, science and archaeology via an accessible medium, the appeal of such attractions will be boosted.

Mobile devices can also quite simply be used to encourage earlier booking if people are made fully aware that an early booking via the attraction’s app will have tangible benefits, like discounts or queue jumps. Once they’ve downloaded the app, it offers the opportunity for further marketing to promote repeat visits.

Attendance Drivers: Special Exhibitions & Awards
Some 33 per cent of people said they are more likely to visit museums or galleries when they have special exhibits. In 2014, the once-in-a-lifetime Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition was London Tate Modern’s most popular ever, while the poppies installation at the Tower of London to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WW1 attracted over four million visitors during its hugely successful run.

And these are just a few of the many successful exhibits and installations that have taken place. Exhibitions create excitement and provide a clear incentive for people to attend because they’re limited, unique experiences that people want to take part in and fear missing out on.

The additional bonus of having special exhibitions is the amount of publicity they receive, thereby keeping the profile of the attraction high. This serves as a reminder, particularly to domestic tourists, who may have considered going to the attraction but have nevertheless continually put it off for ‘another day’.

Attractions also look to achieve publicity through awards ceremonies. The National Football Museum has annual Hall of Fame inductions and Tate Britain hosts the annual Turner Prize awards. While these awards recognise people in their respective fields, they also ensure that the attraction remains consistently in the media headlines.

Exhibitions and events create an excitement around attractions and should therefore be considered an important element of growth to be utilised as often as is practical.

Visiting behaviour regarding attractions
• Travelled to an attraction using a car 63%
• Bought drinks whilst at an attraction 60%
• Visited an attraction where they paid for admission 59%
• Bought snacks whilst at an attraction 56%
• Turned up to the attraction on the day without booking a ticket 47%
• Bought a meal whilst at an attraction 45%
• Visited an attraction which does not charge for admission 43%
• Bought a souvenir from the attraction’s gift shop 37%
• Booked for a visit to an attraction in advance 33%
• Travelled to an attraction using public transport 32%
• Paid to stay overnight as part of a visit to an attraction 22%
• Downloaded an app to help guide them around/give them information about an attraction 10%
• None of these 3%

Based on 1,018 adults visiting specified attractions. Source: Ipsos F2F/Mintel.

Almost half went to an attraction without booking (October 14).

Attitudes towards museums and galleries
• I would be/am more likely to visit museums/art galleries when they have special exhibitions on

• I would be more likely to visit museums/art galleries if they offered reduced prices when they are less busy

• I often visit museums/art galleries in the UK when I take a holiday (3 or more nights)

• I often visit museums/art galleries in the UK when I take a short break (less than 3 nights)

• I would be interested in following an ‘express route’ around a museum which took you to the key exhibits only

• I would be interested in watching a film of a narrated tour around a museum/gallery special exhibition in a cinema

• I would be interested in being able to download a film of a narrated tour around a special exhibit or museum/art gallery

• I would be interested in receiving alerts to tell me when a museum/art gallery near to me was less busy

• In the past I have found it difficult to obtain tickets for special exhibitions at museums/art galleries

• None of these


Based on 1,568 adults interviewed about visiting museums and art galleries.
Source: Ipsos F2F/Mintel.

One third are more likely to visit when special exhibits are on (October 14).

About Rebecca McGrath
Rebecca joined Mintel in September 2013 as a graduate in Politics and American Studies from the University of Nottingham. Since joining Mintel, Rebecca has specialised in research for leisure and media reports. www.mintel.com

www.facebook.com/MintelGroup; @mintelnews

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2015 issue 1

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