by Sabine Lehmann

There are many opportunities for African attractions to gain insights and information from the global attractions industry. Many of them are free. One of my favourites is BlooLoop.

BlooLoop describes itself as “the world’s leading online resource for professionals in the visitor attractions sector” speaking to professionals working at museums, aquariums, theme parks, water parks and family entertainment centres (FECs).  I’d recommend signing up to their daily newsletters which are free.

Following AAVEA’s virtual conference in August (and by the way, all talks are still accessible on the conference app if you wish to re-watch or catch one you missed),I signed up for the BlooLoop V- Expo to to hear the latest thinking from global industry professionals. To register for free access, sign up here. Content is available until 14 November.

A wide range of talks are available from “Pushing the boundaries in museum leadership” to Detoxifying Museums:” and “Conservation for Animals and Zoos”. Here are some sessions that I found particularly useful and are applicable to all attractions and leisure experiences:

10 Positives to Emerge from the Pandemic, by Bernard Donaghue:

Bernard, President of ALVA (The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions in the UK) was also a speaker at the 2020 AAVEA conference.

In this talk he talks about the “trilemma” that all visitor attractions work with; balancing visitor volume, visitor experience and visitor spend – the sweet spot being the centre point where wise and sustainable growth can happen.

Key Trends in the Attractions Industry: COVID and Beyond:

This session includes Yael Coifman of Leisure Development Partners in the UK. Yael is a former AAVEA conference speaker too. Some of the trends noted in USA, Europe and Asia include:

  • experiential retail stores providing immersive and entertaining experiences (often doing this better than small family entertainment centres)
  • edutainment, the fusion of entertainment and education remains a growth area (and I have seen few new offerings in South Africa so this space is open for change and new concepts)
  • the rise of ‘brand centres’, entertaining immersive experiences that celebrate a specific brand and become an attraction (the closest example I can think of in SA is our wine-farms that do this very well, but there is much space for differentiation as most wine farms offer a similar experience)
  • a fusion of art and entertainment: art-tainment, has taken off in the USA, both in terms of permanent attractions and in the form of pop-up attractions. This is seen as a growth area, and one that we have not seen evolve in SA yet.

How can the Experience Economy respond to the Coronacrisis? By Joe Pine:

This speaker, author of “The Experience Economy” was a very popular speaker at the AAVEA 2020 conference providing very thought-provoking insights.

The key distinguishing feature between services and experiences is how the customer treats time. In services they are looking for time well saved, in experiences they are looking for time well spent. Attractions need to ensure that all transactional aspects of their offering (the services part) saves the customer time and is frictionless, whereas the actual experience offering needs to ensure the customer feels their time has been well spent. This is a great talk to listen to, either on the AAVEA conference app (where it was tailor made for our African audience) or on the BlooLoop V Expo site.

9 ways to Achieve operational excellence by Shaun McKeogh:

Shaun is the founder and president of Attractions Academy. His talk outlines nine areas attractions need to excel at to achieve operational excellence:

 1) Recruitment and selection

2) Leadership

3) Systematize operations

4) Training

5) Employee Engagement

6) Management

7) Safety Culture

8) Accountability and Auditing

 9) Quality Management Systems