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The perfect day out will vary depending on the age category of the consumer and what they are interested in – however, for the most part all sectors of the industry can agree on the fact that interactive and experiential attractions are the best received with the broadest range of audiences. Museums, farms, and zoos all have one primary feature in common – they are immersive, and they combine the power of interactive experiences with new sights and sounds that bring different stories and creatures to life.
Of these three main categories in the industry, farms and zoos are conventionally the most attractive for children and families, as they create experiences using the great outdoors and animals that children may not be able to see all the time. If you were to ask a room full of primary school children what their ideal job would be, one of the most common results is a zookeeper or a farmer – mainly due to the draw of being outside all day and getting to interact with animals, tractors and other pieces of machinery. And the experiences across farms and zoos don’t end at the mere view of new animals and settings. Some of the most popular modern farms and zoos attracting consumers today focus on creating experiences across their sites which allow different areas of the farm or zoo to be given more of a spotlight – quite literally turning a working farm or a zoo into an attraction designed for consumer engagement.
And so, joining the list of attractions, suddenly farms and zoos become ticketed sites where families and visitors can pay to enter, and where family deal tickets and seasonal discounts can be enjoyed.
On to museums, and this is where the attractions industry channels most of its historical focus, with some of the best museums around the world focussing not just on bringing history to life for all age groups, but also creating interactive games and experiences for children while still providing a high end experience for those avid history fans who truly want to learn. This fact highlights one of the major areas of focus for many attractions seeking to widen their audience and consumer base, and pinpoints some of the challenges facing the industry as a whole: how to create experiences which appeal to all ages and all demographics rather than isolating certain groups.
One of the best ways to look at these three sectors within the attractions industry is to first recognise them as wildly different experiences. While all three utilise and combine the power of fun with interactive and engaging leaning experiences, each sector is based on a different area of focus and thus attracts different consumers with varying interests.
To start with the inclusion of farms within the attractions industry, one of the first and most important things to note is that while some farms actively promote experience days, tours and interactive attractions, most farms around the world are still used as active farmlands and so there are certain limitations in place with regards to what consumers can and cannot do. The internet is packed full of various farming options where farmers and organisers have jumped on board and adapted their sites to create petting pens, animal feeding pens, educational and learning centres, and even pop up cafes and coffee vans. These are the farm businesses which utilise consumer interest as a driving force for profit and driving support, with popular farming magazine ‘Farmer’s Weekly’ suggesting that in the last 30 years or so that has been a huge boom in the number of farm attractions which are being marketed and enjoyed by captive consumers.
A lot of this interest in farms as attractions is born from the desire for children to become increasingly aware of and educated about the source of their food and other products in their lives. To talk to a farm out in the countryside, many rural consumers would be amazed at how many countryside sites get visits from city schools, only to find that children have no idea that their beef burger comes from a cow. The education about where our food comes from and what we need in order to be healthy is still lacking, and so the growth in popularity of farms a attractions is largely built on the need for more education and more interaction between young people and these farms where their food is grown and nurtured.
Zoos meanwhile are much more of a consumer driven sector – and are only able to survive with the increased and growing support of consumers. While the farming industry is one which would survive and thrive with or without consumer interest, zoos rely on the income from ticket sales and upsold souvenirs in order to stay open for the animals in their care – with the 2020 pandemic creating a real problem for zoos which were forced to close and thus started to see dips appearing in their funding. The history of the zoo as an attraction dates back to Ancient Egypt where wealthy individuals would create menageries of exotic birds and animals in order to show off their extreme wealth. These individuals would send their servants out on quests looking for the most impressive creatures they could find, before bringing them back and caging them to show their immense power over the animal kingdom.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that modern and public zoos became more prominent within society, when scientists and animal behavioural experts used zoos to replicate various animals’ natural habitats and thus observe them in what they would view to be their own home environment. The establishment of these settings led to the first public zoo opening in Paris in 1793 – still a popular location even today with a wide plethora of different zoo locations available across the globe.
Today, zoos offer much more than just a chance to see animals from afar – just like with farms, zoos across the industry are embracing the opportunities they have for consumer interaction, offering everything from petting experiences to behind-the-scenes tours, talks and shows, and even attraction rides and gift shops for additional engagement.
And then we have the museums which, like zoos, thrive and rely on consumer demand and interaction, and are committed to bringing various points of historical prominence to life through objects, stories and – in many cases – audio and personal tours. Museums are consistently embracing technology as part of the growth strategy, finding new ways of linking historical artifacts, myths and legends with interactive technologies which bring them to life and which enable visitors of all ages to fully immerse themselves in the period they are exploring within the museum. Another way that museums are continuing to grow and are ensuring they remain relevant to the modern consumer is through the provision of both permanent fixtures and exhibits, and limited time exhibits which feature often coveted and exclusive items which are only available for a short time. Just like a farm might use the presence of baby lambs for a few weeks in the Spring, or a zoo might market the birth of a baby lion or penguin as part of its own limited offering, by consistently renovating and drawing consumer attention to those exhibits which are only in place for a short about of time, museums are able to create more demand through the very basic concept of FOMO – fear of missing out.
To look at the top retailers and providers within the museums, zoos, and farms industry is to first recognise that the most popular locations are not always the biggest. While the big museums and zoos in large cities like London and New York no doubt attracts the most attention and make the most noise in the industry, often the most highly regarded sites are those which draw fewer crowds and instead focus on the provision of a great experience filled with unique offerings and concepts. A great example is Port Lympne in Kent, which is by no means as prominent within the UK zoo industry as ZSL London Zoo, and yet offers a much more high end and coveted experience through its small and immersive accommodation options which come at high prices but allow consumers to really experience a night in the safety of their own cabin in the zoo. Likewise, farms are not generally large and expansive consumer ventures – rather, they tend to be smaller and more community-based attractions which use various incidents and seasons to drive captive consumers onto the site, and which create personal experiences for those who visit.
In the museums industry, some of the top providers include:
Outside of this it is also worth noting the sheer quantity of attractions and experiences around the world which do not have museum in their title but which utilise the same concept of historical features, objects and items – often in their own home, thus turning the entire site into a living museum. Some of the best examples of this can be found across ancient European cities like Venice and Florence, where every church and ancient building is filled with the original markings and pieces which were placed in there centuries ago and which today form part of its history.
In the zoos industry, top brands and names include:
Outside of these main brands and names in the zoo sector, it is also worth noting that the growth of the industry as a whole is in part linked with the rise in specialist zoos which deal exclusively with varying species. Aquariums operate under the zoo industry heading but specialise in sea and water-based creatures. Monkey sanctuaries and marine sanctuaries are similarly targeted in their approach, and yet exist within the industry as modern zoos. And then we have a very special example which exists in Florida as part of one of the states’ biggest attractions – Disney World, and its Animal Kingdom park which is essentially one large zoo which is built on the desire to raise awareness of conservation causes and to use real animals and safari experience as part of the park’s main attractions in order to create that connection between guests / consumers and the animals that the park is looking to save.
In the farms industry, identifying the top names is generally dependent on the area of focus. However, it is worth noting instead the variety of different farms available for consumer interaction, with some of the most notable examples including:
All of these options offer their own exclusive types of interactive experience for consumers and rely on different sources of income to stay afloat. However, the best options tend to be those which use their community presence as part of their marketing drive, and which create specific experience days and offerings that can be advertised and sold to captive consumers as products. These include offering school visits which are designed to educate, Farmer for a Day experiences where young people have a chance to experience a day on a working farm, petting and feeding experiences which allow families to get into the pens with baby animals, and simple tours which provide more of an educational trip around the farm to show consumers what is involved in looking after and running a modern farm.
When it comes to the museum, farms, and zoos industry, the creation of attractions is all based on the target audience and how the individual provider chooses to tailor their offering in line with the target audience. For the most part, these three sectors of the same industry rely on education tied in with fun and adventure in order to drive demand – using experience day sites and various package offerings to reach out to consumers and create deals and discounts which retain the demand needed for the business to continue to thrive.
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