By Keith Thomas
These difficult trading conditions are a periodic phenomenon to endure and survive, however they also represent a time for a shake out of poor attraction concepts and management practices, a time to re-evaluate long-held assumptions and a great opportunity for new ideas, fresh thinking and exciting new visitor experiences to be developed.
Related: Treasuring the Unsung Heroes of the Attractions Industry/ Themed Entertainment: Death and Recession at the TiLEzone Conference 2012 / Merlin Entertainments 2011 Financial Results: Double Digit Growth and International Expansion
Now then is the time to put together an action plan for survival, here’s a few thoughts from us at Petersham Group:
1. Make sure you have the right leadership in place. Identify the most skilled personnel in the organisation and give the authority and responsibility. Agree a survival and growth strategy and trust the team to deliver it.
2. Bring in additional experience and resources if these are lacking. The right consultants can bring a new perspective and become a vital part of the team. They can work on fixed price contracts without the long-term commitment of employing staff.
3. With their help, review and re-evaluate what you offer to the visitor. Is it still fresh, compelling and vital? Do people still want to experience your attraction and will they continue to want to do so? Are your long-held assumptions still correct? Be brave and prepared to try new methods.
4. Smart marketing is the key to success. Manage branded channels to the full, challenge sales and marketing to look for new markets and segments. Adopt cost-effective new media and respond to consumer trends.
5. Focus management unremittingly on revenue generation. Incentivise them with targets.
6. Don’t cut corners on quality. However, great customer service can overcome the occasional physical shortcoming so keep asking your visitors what they think and take action if they are critical.
7. Watch and learn from your competition.
8. Manage your cost base rigorously. Salary freezes, reduced hours and benefits are preferable to headcount reductions. Trained staff are a valuable asset, treasure them.
9. Review and re-negotiate terms with suppliers.
10. Tightly manage cashflow.
11. Close down poorly performing units and respond promptly to seasonal variations in demand.
12. Cancel or postpone all but the most essential capex.
In summary, organisations that focus simultaneously on increasing operational efficiency, developing new markets, and enlarging their asset bases show the strongest performance on average in EBITDA growth after a recession.