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Long considered the staple of community entertainment, attractions can range from the interactive to the purely visual, providing consumers with entertainment which brings various themes, stories, and fantasies to life.
Contrary to popular belief, an attraction doesn’t have to refer to a theme park or a place designed to heightened fun and adventure – instead it could be a remarkable examples of a community’ culture, or a piece of history which has withstood the test of time. As long as provides some kind of interest or pleasure to captive consumers, it can be viewed as an attraction.
Having said that, there is a distinct divide within the attractions industry between those which are free to enjoy and can be visited at any time by any interested party, and those which come with a price tag – often subject to various seasonal deals and discounts applicable to family groups and large parties.
In its most basic form, it is easiest to understand the attractions industry to be anything which is interesting or fun or is interactive in a way which lets visitors and guests get involved in some way. One of the interesting things which often gets overlooked about this sector is that an attraction does not have to be targeted at families or involving play in its offering – an attraction could just as likely be a conference or an event which targets professionals in various sectors.
That’s not to say that these conferences and adult education events are the most popular types of attraction within the growing industry – far from it in fact, with the best attractions being those which speak to and are designed to draw in the tourist trade to any specific location or area. But how is that achieved, and how has it changed over the years?
The growth of many attractions comes in response to the very simple passing of time – with natural heritage sites, buildings and museums growing in interest and prominence as more time passes and thus an increased amount of features and objects become glorified as historical attractions. A great example of this comes in the global popularity of gardens – with different gardens created at various points and periods in history attracting different groups of consumers and visitors as our interests change and various trends render different attractions popular again. This can be demonstrated very simply by the rise in mainstream media and movies which focus on stories relating to myths and legends from real time history – for example Dan Brown’s book-turned-movie The DaVinci Code. What this fictional stores focuses on is real portraits and real stories about real artists – all of which can be read about and visited in museums all over the world; with subsequent stories by the same author focussing on famous heritage gardens and cultural landmarks. As soon as these paintings, myths and legends, gardens and statues were brought to the forefront of such a popular Hollywood franchise, interest in them peaked and so the original attractions were re-energised and brought back to life by the modern entertainment outlets which made them relevant again.
This is where the main growth of the attractions industry lies – the power of staying relevant and investing heavily in upgrades which serve to make an attraction feel fresh and new again to drive both new trade and to bring back previous consumers. More on this later when we discuss the major trends in the attractions industry.
One of the major features of the attractions industry is that the end product is more closely related to consumer experience than a tangible product that they take home with them. Yes, many attractions offer photo opportunities and gift shops, but at the end of the day the reputation of the industry and of each service provider and brand is dependent on the experience that it provides to its consumers and guests.
One of the biggest names in the attractions industry is of course The Walt Disney Company – operating a series of theme parks and attractions all over the world, and including the very highest levels of customer service across all of its sites, retail stores and customer touch points. The training that Disney employees undergo is such that for most, it cannot be matched, sitting the company above its competitors not just for its immersive experiences and incredible settings, but also in the way that staff members interact with consumers. Another top brand in the attractions industry is Universal Studios – again, responsible for the operation of a series of large franchises which are brought to life in theme parks and through consumer experiences. While these two are often regarded as competitors reaching for the same target audience, where Disney relies on fantasy and immersion, Universal relies on thrills and adventure – giving both its own place in an industry where attraction can really mean anything fun and exciting; different and memorable.
What puts these two brands at the top of their game? Much of it has to do with the sheer size and splendour of their offerings, however what the industry largely relies on above all else is the ability to adapt and adjust its offering to a fickle audience which is always looking for something new to entice and excite them. Attractions are only popular so long as they are fresh and exciting, and so consumers will likely find that ever few years these big players in the industry update and refresh their offerings in order to give veteran consumers an excuse to go back and do it all again.
This is also the case with those attractions which are smaller and more local in their offering. Local zoos introduce new animals and new immersive experiences and feeding times in order to provide consumers with new things to see and do. Museums are constantly opening and closing various exhibits, using the limited time span of some of its most innovative and unique exhibits in order to drive marketing campaigns and create a “fear of missing out” train of thinking among consumers. Even local gardens and historical sites try to revamp their educational programmes and information boards as often as possible or once every season in order to ensure that the information being provided is fresh and informative.
Some examples of attractions on all scales, operating and attracting both global, tourist and local audiences with a wide variety of marketing and advertising drives, include:
When we look at the main trends which are responsible for the growth and success of the attractions industry, one of the major things that the industry consistently strives to identify and fill is gaps in the market both in relation to experiences and themes which are being underserved and could be utilised to drive popularity and increase demand among new consumers and target groups. As a major player in the attractions industry, theme parks and amusement parks operate a large part of this by always extending their offerings and reimagining their parks in line with new trends, new movies and new themes – for example when The Walt Disney Company acquired the Star Wars franchise and used its immense popularity and cult following to establish a whole new area in one of their main Florida theme parks. But this doesn’t have to be applied on a merely global scale – in fact, local attractions can benefit just as much from trends and newly popular themes, with examples being the South Coast of England’s theme park Paulton’s Park which created the world’s first Peppa Pig world and has subsequently succeeded in drawing in an entirely new market of families with young children to join its already huge fanbase; as well as RHS garden centres and open gardens which form great attractions for local days out, especially for outdoor and garden fans, and which have now expanded their locations to include cafes, souvenirs and other retail products and even seasonal markets – all in an attempt to drive new audiences through the doors.
Of course, for those attractions which are purely visible from the outside, for example active government buildings and royal castles, the attraction and experience has to come from somewhere else – and in many cases, that somewhere else is the running of tour buses and guided tours which introduce consumers to different sites and facts through an immersive journey. Most major cities now offer various tour bus experiences and guided walking tours, providing consumers with a way of engaging with those attractions which are filled with interest, but which cannot be explored interactively in the same way. These buses and tours, just like the tickets to theme parks and into museums, are often subject to various seasonal discounts and family tickets, depending on group size and visiting time.
Another major trend which plays a key part in the growth and development of the attractions industry is the focus on location and the way that various attractions lean on their locality in order to increase both the local and tourist following. The fact is that while global attractions like the British Museum, the London Eye and the Tower of London, as well as all the Disney Parks and Seaworld centres have such a large following that they attract global audiences on their own, smaller and other more local attractions must engage with their community audience as well as the visitor audience in order to achieve consistent year-round success. This particular trend is being observed in the development of local attractions guidebooks and maps, the inclusion of various attractions on interactive and online maps and websites, and also the inclusion of more information and ticket booking information through accommodation sites and local transport sites. The fact is that the more exposure attractions can get to the visiting audience, the better equipped they will be to expand into and reel in those audiences. This is particularly prominent with the rise in staycations overpowering the travel and tourism industry, and driving individuals and families to book stays which are a drive away rather than a plane ride away – enjoying local scenery and attractions, and getting away from the drones of everyday life.
Another huge trend which relates to travel and which impacts both the big and small attractions, is the rise of the global audience – and thus, the ways in which attractions must adjust and finetune their communications to offer an all-round experience to every guest regardless of their culture or language. For many attractions, this means offering interactive websites with a wide range of languages available and offering audio and visual guides to historical sites and landmark attractions which can be activated and enjoyed in any language. For theme parks, it means having translators on hand to deal with issues, and in gift shops it means accepting a wider variety of currencies. Most of all, it means having an understanding of cultural expectations and ensuring that any attraction is able to cater to different cultures without causing offence – something that the industry is focussing on in its drive for diversity and inclusivity.
And then we have the growing popularity of attractions which are not just entertaining, but which also seek to bring education to life. A great example of this in action is the Natural History Museum which uses all kinds of interactive exhibits and games to introduce various historical concepts and inventions to young consumers in ways that they can understand, and which stimulate their learning. Another example is the prominence of historical buildings in the attractions industry, with Buckingham Palace and the White House joining the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and even the site of the Twin Towers as attractions of significance which tell a story and which educate consumers about a history that many of them may remember – and which, in time, will purely exist in history.
For those seeking various attractions, the simple fact is that every destination in the world has attractions for the whole family to enjoy – what changes with each one is the way in which consumers are able to interact with it, and the ways in which those attractions open themselves up to visitors and guests. For most, every ticket comes with a viable discount or deal designed to entice more customers in – whether it be an annual pass, a family ticket, a discounted off peak ticket or simply a standard entry fare.
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