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How to increase visitor numbers at heritage attractions and museums

Special events, exhibits and offers can certainly increase visitor numbers on temporary occasions, but what is really going to drive a long-term increase in guests to your heritage attraction of museum? This article looks at the fundamentals of any visitor attraction strategy, to ensure visitor numbers continue to increase beyond the next financial and calendar year.

STEP 1 – Know your visitor

When was the last survey you sent out to your visitors? Did it give you an indication as to the type of visitor they were? More than just demographics, your understanding of your visitors should stretch to their interests, attitudes and beliefs – as well as what they thought of your attraction, of course. Understanding your visitor in-depth will provide you with:

  1. Insight into how you can ensure a repeat visit

  2. Data to improve the attraction to provide a greater guest experience

  3. Knowledge on what they liked and disliked, and iterate your attraction accordingly

STEP 2 – Know your competition

More than just the museum 5 minutes down the road, you need to understand your local market with intrinsic detail. Not just who they are, but what types of experiences do they offer? What is better about their attraction? You also need to understand what your visitors see as your competition too. For example, why would a family visit a cinema when they could simply stay at home and stream the same movie on Disney+? Competition transcends the traditional visitor attraction. By knowing your competition, you can:

  1. Discover how you can be unique in the market

  2. Provide an experience that visitors can’t even experience at home

  3. Become a go-to destination due to your foresight of the market

STEP 3 – Adopt an outsider’s view

It’s incredibly hard to do, but stepping away from your heritage attraction or museum is a great way to gain context – visiting like-minded attractions in distant locations may help with this. Information from visitor surveys are great, but these always need to be tempered with some real-world, real-time data and thoughts. Step into your attraction as a visitor and try to learn:

  1. What are the real advantages of visiting here?

  2. What’s the main problems with our attraction?

  3. What emotional and physical response does it provoke throughout?

STEP 4 – List your attraction’s limitations

Creating an attraction that continues to drive visitor numbers in the long term, requires thinking differently. With heritage attractions and museums, typically objects and exhibits, for example, are kept in glass boxes for conservation purposes and for everyone to see – but what if that was to change? What if only one person could see it at-a-time through a peep window? How about if you opened at night, instead of the day? Thinking differently starts with listing your attraction’s limitations:

  1. What do we normally do, and why do we do it?

  2. Can this traditional way of working be changed to improve the experience?

  3. How will this new experience affect our core visitor groups, or attract new ones?

STEP 5 – Understand your unique narrative

Never lose sight of what your visitor attraction is and represents. While some attractions struggle to understand what their unique narrative is, understanding this ensures you’re authentic – a key factor that drives today’s guests. With a strong narrative, comes a more cohesive visitor attraction which can help:

  1. Improve the guest experience, leading to greater satisfaction

  2. Provide consistency of the stories you are telling, for greater understanding

  3. Recognise your attraction as the main place to learn your story, reinforcing your unique offer

Target long term visitor growth

This level of strategy and insight is imperative to ensure long term growth of visitor numbers at your attraction. Better understanding of guests, local market and your unique offer, will underpin your commercial goals while increasing the guest experience too. Special events, exhibits and offers can drive peaks, but this approach will ensure your visitor attraction remains for many years in the future.

For more information on how we can help you with both strategy and insights of your visitor attraction, discover our industry-leading suite of services and get in touch with us today.

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