VAC 2020’s message for the future – recover better but differently
On 7 and 8 October Next Tourism Generation alliance partner Cardiff Met University attended VAC2020, (#vac2020), a 2 day virtual conference, to gain a better understanding of the concerns of the UK Visitor Attractions sector in 2020.
Sponsored by Digital Visitor and supported by Visit England, BALPPA and ALVA this was the first time the annual conference was virtual. Speakers illustrated the new approaches visitor attractions are taking to secure their future as they re-open in the ‘new normal’ of living with the COVID-19.
Over two days a range of sessions discussed trends in the visitor attraction market, the impacts of advance booking, and the future benefits of changing approaches to marketing and visitor engagement. New digital, green and social skills were identified as key to a successful recovery post-recession. Diana James shares some insights from the conference.
Creating opportunities from a challenging situation was a key theme throughout the conference, an approach that has relevance for the tourism industry across Europe.
Essential digital skills
Digital communication is coming to the forefront. Rather than seeing it as a problem, many visitor attractions are using advance booking to encourage visitors to reserve all elements of their visit before they arrive- such as car parking, a table for lunch, and a digital visitor guide – so staff on site have more time to welcome and engage with visitors and make sure they have a great experience.
Advance booking also means that the attraction gathers more information about its visitors so they can tailor what they offer and train staff to provide the sort of service their visitors really want. Business efficiency is also improved – predicting visitor numbers can help with controlling costs, vital for future business success.
Digital marketing by visitor attractions is growing fast, and more attention is being paid to attracting local visitors keen to explore their home area. Marketing is becoming ever more complex, but investment in digital marketing during the current recession could be a key element facilitating a fast recovery from the recession and long-term future growth.
Visitor attractions have also been getting creative with online retail sales, including vouchers with a longer redemption time, adoption packages, and online events. Producing online resources for schools and families was proving to both generate revenue, and help create and maintain a loyal customer base.
Green and clean
Sustainability skills were also highlighted by speakers. Food and drink are an important element of visitor spend at visitor attractions and one of the mega trends identified was ‘Sourcestenance’- visitors’ increased interest in sustainably produced food and drink, and avoiding the use of non-recyclable materials in food service – a trend that is likely to grow in the future.
Changes in customer service
Staff social skills were also on the agenda, highlighting the patience and diplomacy visitor attraction staff need to make to ensure visitors comply with health and safety rules whilst reassuring less confident visitors and making sure everyone has a good time.
The mood of the conference showed a determination to grasp the opportunities presented by the current challenges faced by visitor attractions. Developing the digital, green and social skills identified by the NTG project could have a key role in helping businesses to thrive in future in the world of the new normal.