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What do guests remember most from visitor attractions?

I’ll never forget the first time I visited the National Space Centre, here in the UK. Arriving by bus on a school trip, I realised my yoghurt had split and leaked all over my lunch – the embarrassment was awful. The saving grace was the star projection in their indoor cinema space that we experienced at the end of the day which was both encapsulating and amazing.

Understanding how guests remember their experience at your attraction is important to think about.

  1. It impacts their decision on whether they will return

  2. It impacts the feedback they give on TripAdvisor, etc.

  3. It impacts how they ‘promote’ your attraction to others

All three of these points can have a detrimental impact on revenue, spend per head and guest experience if they are remembered in a ‘good’ way – and bad too.

The Serial Position Effect

One psychological theory that we are always aware of when we are working with our clients here at Katapult, is the Serial Position Effect. This theory essentially boils down to a simple phenomenon – we are more likely to remember the first (Primacy) and last (Recency) parts of an experience, rather than the ‘intermediate’, what is sometimes perceived as the key reason for the visit.

Why? Things we experience first are processed in our long term memory, while the things we have experienced last, are stored in our short term memory.

Everything in the ‘middle’ has simply not been kept in our memory bank, therefore, more time is required for guests to recall what they’ve done – no matter how fantastic it may have been.

What are guests remembering?

Guests will remember and process different memories based on the attraction experience. Taking the typical day-in-the-life of a guest to a themed attraction, we’ve compiled the good and the bad memories that may be stored in your guests’ minds.

Aside from the photo opportunity you offer at your attraction, are they leaving with the memory that you had in mind?



Testing the theory

We put this theory to test in an experiment using TripAdvisor reviews for an unnamed visitor attraction. Based on the latest 50 reviews for the park and the results mostly confirmed the theory.

  1. 45% of the reviews spoke about their experiences at the start of the day (car parking, queuing to get in, hotel rooms, staff members)

  2. 35% of the reviews spoke about the key experiences in the park (intermediate) such as rides, queue lines, food, drink and other guests

  3. 20% of the reviews spoke about their last experience or their story of leaving the park (exit, car park, weather, retail areas)

Thinking Primacy & Recency first

With this knowledge of how primacy and recency works in the leisure and attractions industry, we have worked with clients to improve their guest experience – and ensure one of the first and last things that guests experience is always a good emotional engagement.


Just one example of this in practice is the work we have done with the National Food Museum. We worked with them on a proposed ‘freemium’ courtyard and reception hub, designed to welcome guests with open arms and provide them with all the information they needed to have a great visit.

This included an outdoor play area for children, a communal wall for guests to share their ‘food memories’ and a slick retail space with products from independent retailers – all available to see without paying for an admission ticket.


Our concepts for the National Food Museum included a ‘pledge garden’ – a unique experience that embraced the old oak tree that was previously neglected. This area was designed to emphasize the educational aspect of the museum as it teaches about humans changing eating habits to protect wildlife – an experience that leaves guests feeling positive and responsible too.

Investment in the right areas

Being able to control the guest experience has long been a goal for theme parks, museums and themed attractions inside the experience.

But is enough being done at the very start and very end of the guest’s journey to leave them with a lasting, happy memory? Do they even feel ‘safe’ visiting yet due to the psychological effects of the pandemic?

With increased loyalty, revenue and good online reviews at stake, it’s worth considering the Serial Position effect and ensuring future investments in your attraction, simply doesn’t always just focus on the main attractions.

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