Throughout each phase of the pandemic, a recurring question reverberated around the industry across wide-ranging conversations: what temporary changes have we made to our operation will reverse back to normal after the pandemic, and what’s here to stay?
As we reach two full years of living with the pandemic, we continue to ask this question, yet we have much more clarity today than we did in the spring of 2020. Based on guest feedback and data from the last two years, we can look to the future with a little more confidence. While we don’t have a crystal ball, there are several predictions we can safely make about what trends aren’t going “back to normal” any time soon.
Increased mobile adoption
While the pandemic may have played a part, smartphone usage has accelerated substantially in recent years. If you are not catering to guests on the devices in the palms of their hands, you are falling behind the trend. This includes how your website is presented, your online point of sale, and even how guests are experiencing your attraction while they are onsite. Your efforts should focus on the mobile-first and desktop second.
Guests prefer fewer and fewer touchpoints across their experience. While some touchpoints are compulsory and unable to be eliminated, are you striving to minimize contact whenever possible? The aforementioned trend of increased mobile adoption works well with guests’ preference for contactless, as many previously tangible elements can now be delivered through guests’ own devices. For instance, admission tickets, which historically were always printed and required a handoff from the staff to the guest and the guest to the staff, can now be fully mobile, only needed for the guests’ phone to be scanned for entry.
Many of these types of opportunities are available across your venue.
In the same breath as contactless, going cashless is increasing in popularity. Some attractions have jumped straight into the deep end and have eliminated cash from their venue. The benefits for going cashless go beyond meeting preferences of being contactless; they are an advantage for loss prevention, as cash control is no longer a concern. While this may also create additional friction, such as how to serve guests who prefer to only pay in cash, providing multiple options for payment that steer guests away from cash will result in less cash changing hands.
Cleanliness & Sanitation
Cleanliness is not a new concern or trend in the attractions industry, but it undoubtedly took on a new role. Most guests who came back to attractions once they reopened from the initial lockdown came in with a heightened sense of sanitation, requiring not only new procedures being put in place but also new communication for how venues were keeping the facility clean. This involved going beyond the procedures and ensuring that content on the website, signage, and staff verbiage match what guests can expect, along with more cleaning procedures happening in front of guests in the interest of “sanitation theater.” Pay attention not only to the procedure themselves but also the optics that will dictate how the guests perceive the standard.
Lastly, capacity restrictions of 2020 and 2021 challenged attractions to do more with less, and part of this included operating at a reduced capacity and trying to recoup the revenue lost. Several savvy operators took the opportunity to build premium experiences into their offerings that would meet capacity restrictions without compromising revenue. For example, Sawgrass Recreation Park, which offers airboat rides in the Florida Everglades, implemented a “one family at a time” package that provided a more intimate boat ride instead of cramming in with strangers.
As time continues to progress, it is expected that we will see additional trends that we expected were temporary beginning to take a permanent place in the attractions industry. The new normal is here, and we need to embrace it.