PGAV Destinations has published its inaugural Voice of the Visitor: 2016 Annual Outlook on the Attractions Industry; a new annual forecasting report for the Attractions Industry.
Mike Konzen, PGAV Destinations principal and chair (right), explains why the destination design firm’s latest industry insight publication is a landmark new piece of research for professionals across the visitor attractions industry.
“My family always loves going to new places and trying new things. We try to get out and explore as often as possible,” said one recent destination guest. As tourism professionals, we have a wide variety of tools and methods to observe and learn from destination guests. However, oftentimes, simply talking directly to our visitors can provide the greatest insights into what they love, what they don’t, and what they wish they could see and do.
There are numerous reports that explore developments in the industry and changes in annual destination attendance across the globe, which are all useful resources for designing, improving, and shaping the ideal attraction guest experience. However, our destination designers wanted to get insights directly from the visitors themselves about why they choose to visit destinations and how their experiences impact their future destination travel intentions.
The 2016 Voice of the Visitor study was done in conjunction with our partners, H2R Market Research and Blooloop, among 1,006 U.S. leisure attraction visitors who have either visited an attraction in 2015 or are open to doing so in 2016. The purpose of this study is to provide an industry-standard dashboard that quantifies aggregate attractions’ industry performance and presents a forecast for immediate-future visitation. This will be an annual forecasting report, using the same timing and methodology, so that it becomes a permanent resource for destination operators.
Most importantly, 86% of our respondents plan to travel for leisure this year, which is up 3% over 2015. Much of this attendance growth will be attributed to an increased interest from Generation X, Millenials, and minorities in travel, as well as a 5.1% increase in the average number of destination visits expected per household.
Those attractions expected to see the most robust growth include Family Entertainment Centers, Large-Screen Format Theaters, Aquariums, and Historic Homes and Mansions — all expected to see attendance gains of 5% or more.
Much of this forecasted travel growth is fueled by a rise in optimism about the direction the U.S. economy is heading. More than four out of five respondents say they expect the economy to improve or stay about the same over the next six months; and those expecting improvement greatly outnumber those expecting things to get worse. Minorities and Gen. X are the most optimistic about the future of the US economy, while Matures and Baby Boomers remain more skeptical.
Overall, most destination guests are loyal to the destinations they’ve already visited. Many destination guests reported few first-time visits in 2015: 84% of guests who said they visited a theme park last year noted they’d been to that specific park before, while 81% of those who visited a zoo or aquarium reported the same. The average intent to return to the same attraction last visited is 3.97 on a 5-point scale, with 71% of respondents indicating they probably or definitely will return this year. Those respondents who said they don’t intend to go back to the same destination this year almost uniformly gave the same explanation: “I’ve been there, done that, there’s nothing new to see.”
Loyalty programs and memberships continue to play a key role in attendance figures, as a third of 2015 theme park guests and a quarter of zoo and aquarium guests visited with memberships or season passes. Historic Homes (8%) and FECs (10%) see the lowest attendance with memberships, which may be in part due to the lower prevalence of membership programs with these kinds of destinations.
Fully 69% of travelers visit destination websites when planning their trips. It’s no surprise that visiting destination websites is the number-one planning tool across all surveyed groups. After all, websites are the premier (and logical) source of information about an attraction.
About one in four respondents used travel review sites; except for the Mature group, where those sites fell to one in ten. The go-to social media outlet was Facebook across the board, followed by Pinterest and Twitter.
On average, guest satisfaction is relatively high across all destinations, scoring 4.49 out of five. Water parks see the “lowest” satisfaction with 4.17, and theaters see the “highest” at 4.68. Half of all guests would recommend their most recent destination to friends and family, with 43% of all respondents citing the lack of WiFi as their biggest pain point.
As many PGAV Destinations studies have shown in the past, the three most important factors to destination guests at any kind of destination are:
- Friendly staff
- A diverse experience with lots of different things to see and do
- A unique experience that’s out of the ordinary
Visit www.pgavdestinations.com/insights or download here
for the full report and to get detailed profiles and forecasts for:
• Art Galleries
• Botanical Gardens
• Family Entertainment Centers
• Historic Homes and Mansions
• Historic Landmarks
• Large Format Theaters
• Science Centers
• Sightseeing Tours
• Theme Parks
• Water Parks