08 Apr 2020 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2019 issue 4

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Leisure Management - World Tour


World Tour

A new study has found that the global museum exhibitions market is worth almost US$6bn and it looks set to continue to grow. Kath Hudson finds out more about the potential of touring exhibitions and pop-ups

Kath Hudson
Dinosaurs Around the World introduces visitors to more than a dozen animatronic dinosaurs

Touring exhibitions should be able to offer an experience visitors can’t get anywhere else,” says Paul Lee, design director at Mather & Co. “Whether that be a unique object or collection, a behind the scenes visit, or an exhibition which captures a personal story or important moment in time, it should stand out by being engaging, relevant and appealing to a wide range of people.

“A good exhibition should immerse visitors. It should be a form of escapism.”

According to Vastari’s Exhibition Finance Report, touring exhibitions are a buoyant growth sector and can be a powerful way to engage with new audiences. The study, which focussed on 20,000 members of the International Council of Museums, found that on average museums hold seven exhibitions a year.

The main motivation is to display new material and attract a wider audience, with “building public profile and reputation” coming a close second. Surveys from Imagine Exhibitions found that an average of 40 per cent of visitors to its exhibitions are first time visitors to the host venue, proving that travelling exhibitions are an excellent way to engage new audiences and deliver mission-based programming to different communities.

Content is king
President and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, Tom Zaller, says to stage a successful exhibition it’s crucial at the outset to find out the client’s goals – for example, to boost ticket sales, or provide robust educational content – and then tailor the experience accordingly. 90 per cent of Imagine’s visitors rate experiences 4/5 or 5/5, which Zaller reckons ups the likelihood of them returning to the institution in the future.

Compelling experiences with a strong narrative are what people are looking for: “People want immersive, shareable, interactive experiences, with a story at the core,” says Zaller. “They’re no longer interested in a separation between themselves and the experience – they want to be inside the experience, to be a part of it.

Venues are looking for the same. According to Imagine’s recent industry survey, more than 50 per cent of venues who book travelling exhibitions are seeking tactile, hands-on interactives as a part of the experience.

Visitors, says Lee, should be drawn into the narrative through engaging design, creating an emotional journey. “Good exhibitions typically have a change of pace throughout the visit to keep it fresh, which can be delivered through visual stimuli, standout “wow” moments and clear communication from the exhibition to the visitor,” he says.

Staying on trend
As well as reaching new audiences, travelling exhibitions allow venues to stay relevant at a much lower cost than a permanent exhibition. In a recent industry survey, Imagine found that climate change, dinosaurs, artificial intelligence, immigration and space were the subjects which venues are most interested in discussing. To stage new permanent exhibitions could be prohibitively expensive, but touring exhibitions make delivering these experiences much more feasible.

Lee also points out that touring exhibitions can be good revenue generators in themselves: “The temporary exhibition programme is a vital part of revenue generation, whether firsthand through ticket sales and merchandise, or passively through secondary spend, which can be incorporated through promotional add-ons, such as photo opportunities.”

Going forward, Zaller predicts there will be an ongoing use of IPs to create strong storylines which people are familiar with, making for an easier sell: “We licensed and developed a successful Jurassic World exhibition a few years ago,” he says, “and have worked on producing Hunger Games: The Exhibition, as well as many other popular IPs. If the right IP is well executed, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Mather & Co spent three months meeting the producers and creators of Downton Abbey before committing to a final design of the exhibition. “As it uses real objects and props from the show, as well as its characters, it needed to feel authentic,” says Lee. “We had the creators, producers, directors and writers of the show working alongside us the whole time to ensure it was spot on.”

Up next
Lee says that within the museum sector there’s a small shift towards venues being created which focus on delivering a temporary or changing rotation of stories and collections through exhibition programmes and the downsizing of permanent displays. “There’s a definite requirement in all the projects we work on for the capacity to update, refresh, generate new content and ensure repeat visitors are as much of the target audience as new visitors,” he says.

Another burgeoning trend is allow digital access to exhibitions. “I don’t believe that virtual or digital exhibitions will ever replace the tangible, sensory nature of visiting the real thing, but it’s allowing access to be granted to a wider audience, extending the brand and providing a dialogue with new generations of visitors, which can only be a good thing,” adds Lee.

In terms of content, Zaller says the world of video games and apps are opening up a whole new realm of fandom: “Angry Birds is a great example – what started as a gaming app has now grown into a film franchise, with a second film released this year alongside the existing live entertainment brand extensions like Angry Birds Universe.”

Consumer trends suggest touring exhibitions and pop-ups are here to stay. Millennials prefer to spend their money on an experience rather than material items. Also, as online retailers are leading to a weakening of the physical retail landscape, Zaller points out that this leaves developers re-imagining and repurposing existing assets in new ways

“The “pop-up” trend has started to grow, especially in the US,” he says. “There’s also a hunger for live experiences. People will always crave opportunities to make memories together and share them with each other. Travelling exhibitions, immersive experiences and entertainment are the perfect platform for consumers to come together and share in a meaningful experience.”

Does size matter?
In terms of the perfect host venue, a good sized space which is easily accessible and with high footfall is ideal. However, not ticking all of these boxes doesn’t mean a venue won’t be a success. A popular exhibition can draw visitors to out of the way locations and flexible design can allow unlikely venues to accommodate touring exhibitions.

Lee says that small, intimate spaces often lend themselves well to this use. Zaller says if the host is keen they can usually come up with a creative solution – in the past this has involved using climate controlled tents in the grounds of a venue.

Another concern which is sometimes voiced by venues is the maintenance of high tech interactives. Imagine has overcome this barrier by working with Scitech which designs robust interactives, many of which can be maintained remotely.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
The Downton Abbey movie was released in September 2019 and continues the storyline from the series, with much of the original cast returning

Takeing visitor to post-Edwardian England and bringing Downton Abbey to life, the exhibition immerses visitors in the social history, culture, and some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six-season run

Angry Birds Universe

The exhibition features a variety of immersive environments and interactive activities, allowing fans to learn a wide variety of educational concepts in an entertaining manner, including the chance to “Be The Bird” and experience the Angry Birds games in real life

Survival: The Exhibition

Provides practical, real-world, and science-based techniques to prepare visitors of all ages for survival situations they could actually face

Key findings of Vastari’s Exhibition Finance Report

• The annual global museum exhibition budget is worth US$5.9bn

• There are an estimated 55,000-80,000 museums worldwide, and the largest 20,000-35,000 museums account for the bulk of spending on touring exhibitions

• The average number of exhibitions per museum each year is seven

• The average cost, excluding shipping and insurance, is US$57,000

• The total insured asset value globally each year for exhibitions is around US$87bn

• Demand outstrips supply for travelling fine art exhibitions

• The main reason for hosting is to expand audiences, raise profile, enhance reputation and generate revenue

• 65 per cent of institutions host externally produced touring exhibitions

• More than two thirds of institutions plan their exhibitions more than 12 months in advance

• 64 per cent of institutions work with both exhibition producers and other institutions

• 32 per cent work exclusively with other institutions

• 4 per cent work solely with exhibition producers

• 41 per cent of hosts of fine art exhibitions do not choose to work with exhibition producers

• Art institutions tend to have lower average hosting budgets than science institutions

• Art exhibitions tend to have higher value objects and be more logistically complicated than science exhibitions

The report can be found at www.vastari.com.
Data in the report is anonymous to subscribers

Paul Lee
"A good exhibition should immerse visitors into its world. It should be a form of escapism" - Paul Lee, design director at Mather & Co
Tom Zaller
"Angry Birds is a great example – what started as a gaming app has now grown into a film franchise" - Tom Zaller, president and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions

Originally published in Attractions Management 2019 issue 4

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