COVID-19 – visitor attractions reset and recover with short, medium and long-term strategic planning

Do you have answers to some of these questions?

A free 30-minute contingency planning surgery with attraction operators and other tourism businesses

We are offering a free 30-minute contigency planning survegy with visitor attraction operators and other tourism business owners.   This could be a one-on-one session or you can bring together a number your colleagues for a team session.  The sessions would be led by Kevin Brown, Managing Director and Richard Linington, Director.  This would be hosted via Zoom or another technology service. 

In the first instance please contact Richard Linington

COVID-19 and visitor attractions

The timing of the closure of visitor attractions across the UK probably came at the worse time of year – just before Easter, which is usually the first occasion since Christmas where significant revenue can be generated, events launched and bookings taken for the season ahead. If we look at the wider UK economy, businesses within the tourism and leisure sectors have been particularly hard hit. Interestingly, the weather over Easter this year was particularly sunny which in some ways added to the painful news around the virus crisis for tourism businesses!

Our sister company manages four visitor attractions, a hotel and microbrewery and we recognise the challenges the visitor attraction sector currently faces.

How can we plan for the new ‘normal’?

We are in an unprecedented time. Once restrictions are lifted there is unlikely to be return to the old ways of working for visitor attractions, at least in the short-term. As attraction operators and managers of tourism businesses there is going to be an imperative to change the current operational and business models we have relied upon. It is critical to start planning for the new normal, particularly, as the summer period is fast approaching. We should also recognise that tourism as a ‘sector’ of the UK economy will play a critical role in the wider economic recovery of the country.

Data driven solutions

Developing solutions should be informed by hard and soft data, which will ensure future development planning is evidence based.

There is a strong requirement to understand the needs of visitors. Is it very likely they will be rightly concerned about the safety of their families and we need to understand these concerns.

A short survey designed to capture information about the needs and intentions of your visitors will be essential. An online survey service such as Survey Monkey can be used to collect and analyse the data. Promoting the survey using your own website and social media channels will help to raise awareness of the module of research. Incentives can be offered to generate a higher response rate. The data can then be used to inform a range of operational procedures, such as for example, admissions processes, catering and retail strategies, membership sales etc.

At the same time, it will be important to consider wider market trends which could also impact on your attraction once re-opened. For example, consumer confidence levels and tourism trends at a destination management level.

  • What percentage of visitors won’t visit in an attraction within the first two months of reopening? ?% ?%
  • What percentage of visitors will visit an attraction less during the COVID-19 recovery phase? ?% ?%
  • What percentage of visitors will be reluctant to book an event? ?% ?%
  • What percentage of visitors will use the onsite catering outlet? ?% ?%

Communicating with customers (along with staff and volunteers)

When we started working back in the tourism and attractions sectors, websites didn’t exist. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube couldn’t even have been imagined. As attraction operators, we fully understand there are a range of channels open to us which provide a strong position to communicate with our customers and to keep them up to date with our latest plans. More importantly these digital channels, including email lists, allow us to engage with our customers and members cost-effectively – we can have two-way conversations.

Don’t forget that your staff and volunteers should be included within this communication strategy

Securing funding

New funding will need to be secured to take forward some development initiatives and there are likely to be a range of grants available for some attractions. However, there may be a need to secure additional borrowings to help with cashflow management. A sound business case, HM Treasury Green Book compliant, may need to be made to support future funding applications either from public or private sources

Working in partnership

Partnership working with other visitor attractions and tourism businesses in the local area will become more important. Collectively, the marketing spend can have a great impact.

A twin track approach

Whilst we have focused the attention of this article on the immediate short-term recovery phase, we must not lose sight of the medium / long term development strategy. A ‘twin track approach’ can be adopted which considers both the short-term recovery phase along with the medium / longer term development planning.

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted some areas of the attractions sector, for example, country parks, forest sites and National Parks are like to benefit. Whilst other indoor attractions are likely to face additional challenges and more restrictive regulations.

We are here to help existing and new clients, particularly in terms of providing support and recovery planning advice in four key areas:

  1. Online primary research among your customers to inform your recovery planning
  2. Redesigning your current business, operational and marketing plans – with a focus on cost savings and income generation and identifying the financial implications
  3. Preparing business cases to support funding applications
  4. Funding application support

PSC is a visitor attraction and tourism consultancy. If you would like to talk to Richard Linington or Kevin Brown today please drop us an email at or