Describing the difference between numbers and emotion in attraction design

With great interest I always read Andreas Andersen’s Blog: Reflections, where he shares his personal perspective on our industry. It always makes me reflect on similar experiences of my own. In his first blog of this year he made a very interesting point: Quantity vs Quality, including three great examples of what is happening in our industry,

It immediately reminds me of many discussions I had (and have) with operators and investors when I ask them the very basic question: “ Why are you doing this?”. Besides the remarkable fact that many board members don’t have a clear answer to this question, I seldom get an answer in which they say: “I want as many visitors as possible.”

The answer on”why are you doing this?” is sometimes ” I want to have a certain ROI “, but often they answer more idealistic e.g. “I would like to do something back for the community” or “I want to leave a legacy” or “I like the smile on people’s faces when they visit us”. Surprisingly these answers often come from successful investors. In Brand Center projects I mostly get answers like “ We want to create ambassadors for our brand”.

Almost no one invests or is interested in our business because they want to get as many visitors as possible in. But I more and more get a feeling that our industry is driven by the increase of visitor numbers. Maybe because visitor numbers are the main topic in the yearly TEA/AECOM report. Or maybe it is driven by press articles which measure success by the increase of visitor numbers; the higher the numbers the more successful you are. For me the reason for this focus on visitor numbers is simple: our accountants see every extra visitor as extra revenue and therefore every extra visitor counts. Besides that, these numbers are tangible and easy to understand.

But we are not in the hard numbers industry. We are in an industry which is much more complex. In my opinion the goal of our industry should be: creating memories by touching emotions. This sounds very idealistic, but it isn’t just that. There is certainly an economic side to this as well: by touching emotions visitors are willing to spend more money in our attractions and parks. Research has shown this many times.

By focusing on the increase of visitor numbers there is a fair chance of jeopardising the goal of our industry. Like Andreas Andersen wrote in his blog: “There is without a doubt a negative correlation between many guests and guest satisfaction.” I strongly believe that in the long term focusing on increasing visitor numbers doesn’t improve your business model and the success of our industry.

Maybe while we are driven by the accountants we have forgotten the wise lessons of Pine and Gilmore in “The Experience Economy”, the book written already 20 years ago. In the book they perfectly explained how to create revenue: not by creating masses, but by creating emotions. And this is especially valid in our industry.

Let’s give all our accountants a copy of this book, and let’s start to value the success of attractions and parks by revenue instead of visitor numbers. Let’s stop with focussing on capacity and get back to what our industry really is about: Creating Emotions. And I am sure that in the long run we will benefit all, including our accountants…..

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