24 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2021 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Anthony Rawlins


Anthony Rawlins

"We have to continue to embrace innovation and not let that agile mindset slip"

Anthony Rawlins, CEO, Digital Visito
Attractions must continue to innovate and create digital and live experiences Photo: shutterstock/Zyabich

For all the pain and misery the pandemic has wrought on our sector, it’s presented a major opportunity to permanently change and improve it,” says Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor.

“There are countless opportunities to kick-start this evolution, and it’s not change for change’s sake – it’s based on what consumers actually want, and what your businesses actually need.”

With this in mind, Digital Visitor has written a whitepaper, titled An Industry Renewed, to equip attractions with insights and ideas that will drive success in 2021 and beyond.

Agility and short-term focus
“They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’”, says Rawlins, “and, as an industry, we proved that in 2020. Think of those apps to order food and drink in pubs and museums creating digital tours and experiences. All that happened very quickly by focusing on the problem, identifying a short-term fix, and nimbly solving it with a ‘test and learn’ approach.

“It’s important to realise that in 2021 and beyond, we’ll need to keep hold of this ability to be agile and make it an integral part of our day-to-day business. When you think about what’s changed in the industry in the last 10 years, and what’s going to happen in the next two years, we need to prepare ourselves for continuous change. We have to embrace the mindset and approach to innovation that has enabled us to adapt to the current situation so quickly.”

Digital marketing
“In March 2020, Digital Visitor surveyed 50 UK visitor attractions of all shapes and sizes and found the average marketing budget allocated to digital was around 25 per cent,” explains Rawlins. “Since then, there’s been a rapid and seismic shift in how marketing budgets are allocated in some previously resistant segments, and attractions are up-ending their budgets, spending more of it on digital marketing.

“This has many benefits – especially in the uncertain world we’re in right now. Firstly, it’s immediately optimisable. If it’s not working that day, you can change it. Secondly, you can turn it off instantly if something happens – you’re not committed to months of budget. If someone clicks on an ad, you know. If someone opens an email, you know. If someone visits a landing page then books, you know.

“In this context, digital marketing offers more visible and measurable value than traditional forms of marketing.”

This shift towards doing more digital marketing goes hand-in-hand with digital transformation, explains Rawlins: “If you offered booking by email or phone pre-pandemic and then shifted to online booking during it, will you (and more importantly, your customers) want to go back to the old ways after a vaccine arrives and normal service resumes? I seriously doubt it.”

Staying and spending locally
“Over the next 12 months, we’ll all spend more time locally, which presents a great opportunity for attractions,” says Rawlins. “We don’t know how long lockdowns will last, so we’re not going to plan our six-hour trip to see our family, as we might be confined to quarters – or they might be.

“If we want to get away for a few days, it makes sense to look within an hour of where we live. Yes, it’s still relatively local, but given our confinement, it will still feel different enough and, no doubt, a world away.

“This desire to stay and spend locally opens up another opportunity by way of loyalty and membership programmes. For example, if an attraction offers people within 10-15 miles loyalty points every time they spend on food and drink, I guarantee they’ll pick up good local advocates in 2021. These loyalists are not only perfectly situated to keep coming back, but they’ll add extra clout to any local marketing.”

Shorter booking cycles
“When restrictions were lifted in summer 2020, hundreds of thousands of people went mad booking holidays, which proves that you need to be ready for this latent demand because it will explode again, as people will want to book once things open up,” says Rawlins.

“Consumers are being clever about how they plan their trips and will be making travel decisions based on the most recent recommendations, meaning their booking cycle has shortened to just a few days and in some cases the same day. When restrictions are eased, focus on encouraging visits in the immediate and near-term.”

Experience explosion
“The ‘experiences’ market is set to take off like never before in 2021. Even before the pandemic, people were buying more of them and were happy to pay handsomely for the privilege,” says Rawlins. “Providing special money-can’t-buy-moments will exceed customer expectations and build confidence in what you’re offering, which in turn, raises the perception of value. I think the attractions market will rebound spectacularly as soon as it’s able, as we place an even higher value on the experiences we buy.”

Read the whitepaper at:

Originally published in Attractions Management 2021 issue 1

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