These five numbers can be indicators of the health and success of your attraction. As an attraction manager it should be as natural as breathing to review these numbers and know what changes big and small mean.
(1) Visitor Numbers
Admittedly, visitor numbers are not the only nor even the most important metric to follow, but they are important. Why open a visitor attraction if no one is visiting?
Remember to track all visitor numbers, both paid and unpaid categories. I recently spoke to an attraction manager that was not counting visitors under four years old because they did not charge an admission fee for the age group. The attraction assumed they had about 10,000 annual visitors in this age category, but upon tracking them they found it to be closer to 30,000. This resulted in a review of baby changing facilities and programming for this younger age group. Lesson: track ALL visitors.
Look at historic visitor numbers going back five years.
(2) Visitor Statistics
Where are your visitors from? Are they local, domestic South African, or international? When they purchase a ticket simply ask them where they are from – it’s a useful way of engaging with your visitors and will give you feedback in terms of setting admission fees and understanding the fluctuation in entries. For example: local and domestic South African visitors will mean peak periods are during South African school holidays and if international visitors are the majority it will mean that you need to prepare for peak periods from September to April.
(3) Dwell Time
We are all competing for the visitor’s time, attention, and discretionary spend. Time is the most valuable and includes travel to and from your site. Do you know how long the visitor actually spends at your site? Dwell time affects how they perceive value for money of the admission fee. Increased dwell time also means that visitors are likely to spend more at your site (food and beverage and retail).
It’s important to track dwell over time as it may change, and to understand that the designed dwell time may not be the actual dwell time. For example: a botanical garden may have enough to engage a visitor for three to four hours, but visitors may actually only stay for one hour, influencing their spend on site and how they perceive the value for money of the admission fee. If your actual dwell time is much lower than what the site offers, you will need to find ways to help visitors slow down and enjoy all that your attraction has to offer.
It’s also important to track dwell time by visitor segment/admission fee category; if certain segments are not staying long it may be time to look at programming specifically directed at them.
(4) Secondary Spend
Secondary spend on site refers to any spend aside from the admission fee. This includes parking, food and beverage, retail, and additional extra spend. You work too hard to gain the footfall through the front door to not leverage this for extra spend on site. One attraction increased their on-site spend by 30% by creating photo opportunities – particularly popular with domestic visitors.
(5) Ticket Yield
This refers to income from admission fees. As admissions are usually the primary income driver for all attraction types, this is an important number to watch.
Yield is calculated as follows: total income revenue from admission fees divided by the number of visitors (include all categories, even those with free admission) expressed as a percentage of the headline price (the headline price is the main admissions fee, usually the adult admission fee). This then gives you a percentage to track and benchmark against other similar attractions. For example, the average ticket yield for a theme park is 60%.
Now you know the numbers to watch, but what does it mean to be on top of the numbers? Firstly, the attraction manager needs to know why the number is important to watch, and what influences the number’s positive or negative movement.
Watch them in the short term (daily, weekly, monthly) and in the long term (annually and in three- and five-year cycles). Benchmark these numbers with your peers in the industry; the numbers are affected differently at cultural and natural attractions, or attractions that draw majority local or majority international visitors. Share what you can with the teams in your attraction, both front of house and back of house, so that everyone understands what you’re tracking and why.
It’s also important to agree with stakeholders what and why you want to track. It’s important that Boards and Trustees understand what metrics you are watching and why.
Looking for relevant benchmark studies in South Africa? They don’t currently exist. But AAVEA is working with IAAPA (the global attractions association) to roll out such a study on South African attraction data in 2020. The data will be collected anonymously but it is important that South African attractions participate so that we can collate our own data that is relevant to our own needs.