What is the ‘Staycation Market’?
The current spike in popularity of the ‘staycation’ market is here to stay and its immense popularity has just been growing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. With the prospect of going abroad feeling further away than ever, many families chose to explore the 4 nations of Great Britain. With family holidays in the UK comes more exploring of UK attractions and destinations. Visit Britain forecasted that in 2021 £56.1bn would be spent on domestic tourism alone, that up 65% on 2020.
How did the pandemic impact the tourist attractions?
Due to lockdowns across the UK and abroad, the UK tourism and attractions sector was in widespread shutdown from mid-March until around early July. That meant £0 money in the till, no visitors through the door and limited options for many people to enjoy their leisure time, which everyone knows by now had a devastating effect on the many attractions around the UK. Marketing teams had to come up with new ways of engaging visitors, ticket sales moved online and park owners/managers ended up hosting live Social Media streams or creating their own content to share with loyal visitors.
Whilst many attractions struggled, some managed to move part of their business online, by selling DIY kits, homemade gin or craft ale and even selling online experiences such as ‘Meet the Animals’ virtually. The phrase is ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’, which is exactly what most visitor attractions did in those early months and were able to continue doing over the last 2 years.
How did the travel and domestic tourism industry bounce back?
The turning points out of the initial wave came in July 2020 as the UK began to reopen up and the economy started to bounce back. With restrictions slowly easing, domestic and (limited) international travel now allowed, the UK tourism sector saw an influx in the number of staycation bookings and visitor attractions saw their visitor numbers start to increase.
With everyone ready to leave their home in search of new adventures and keen to make new memories, the popularisation of visiting attractions was boosted. Due to ‘Staycationing’ rising in popularity because it was an affordable, hassle-free, risk-averse option, Britons found themselves discovering more of what the UK attraction market had to offer. With more annual leave to take as many employees were furloughed or not taking annual leave during lockdown, the demand for days out was higher than ever. However, capacity management was restricting lots of attractions from accommodating these growing numbers.
Introducing Capacity Management for Ticket Sales.
With limits on attraction’s capacity for daily footfall and event capacity at less than 50%, visitor attractions were turning more and more to online booking or pre-booking as a way of selling tickets to visitors. This meant, gone were the days of rocking up to a visitor attraction because you were on holiday and fancied that activity that day.
In fact, multiple support groups for attraction owners in the UK found that many of their operating members struggled to keep up with the change in demand. Attractions found themselves with members bookings being changed last minute, no shows and lots of visitor queries on how to actually book a visit. Staff were stretched to their limits just answering phones about visitor’s bookings and other such admin tasks. Struggling to keep on top of this new way of working, many attractions turned to an online ticketing system that allowed existing members to book their tickets online for free in advance of their visit.
However, with capacity limits in place, if your member decided not to turn up on that day, it also meant a paying day visitor could not gain entry even though there was capacity for them. The whole system had the industry scratching their heads over what the right solution would be. Some decided to add a booking fee, so members had to pay to book their days out, others chose to manage capacity on the door daily and stop letting people in once capacity was reached.
The light at the end of the online ticketing tunnel.
With many existing ticketing providers quickly scrambling to work out how to adapt their system to cope with the demands on pre-booking and capacity management, it was left to the attraction owners and managers to decide whether their solution was delivering the best service to their visitors.
VisiTickets was in final testing phases during 2020, which meant our in-house developers were able to adapt to new trends as they occurred. Over the months where many existing providers struggled with the likes of timed-entry or capacity planning, our developers wrote that directly into VisiTickets to ensure that it came as standard functionality for any attraction using our online ticketing software. We spoke to existing VisiSoft EPOS customers about their frustrations and created a ‘wish list’ of what they would want from an online ticketing platform built for attractions.
How can we help visitor attractions solve their ticketing problem?
Today VisiTickets is live in attractions across the UK who are managing capacity and helping members pre book tickets with no hassle at all. In fact, we’re dedicated to continuously developing our online ticketing platform to ensure that it remains loved by our customers and helps them increase not only visitors but customer loyalty, with our easy-to-use interface.
The staycation market accelerated growth in the UK tourist attraction economy, but it also presented an opportunity for attractions to review their current processes and demand excellence for their visitors in every aspect of their attraction, including their online ticketing journey. If you would like to find out more about how VisiTickets could work for your visitor attraction, book a free demonstration with our team to get started.