Gordon

IAAPA – the Global Association for the Attractions Industry, is hosting its 2022 IAAPA Expo Europe in London this year. The event will take place at the ExCel Exhibition Centre from 13-15 September, with the conference programme commencing the day before.

ASVA is delighted to report that, following conversations with our friends at IAAPA, our members have been offered an exclusive 25% discount to attend. To take advantage of this discount, all you need to do is e-mail MarketingEMEA@IAAPA.org and quote ‘ASVVIP’

As well as experiencing the largest international conference and trade show for the leisure and attractions industry in the Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) region, attendees will be able to enjoy:

  • Nine networking events.
  • 50 speakers in a diverse education conference programme.
  • 15 EDUSessions on topics such as how to use data to improve guest experiences; leadership techniques; dynamic pricing strategies; food and beverage innovations; iconic attractions; hospitality and guest services; crisis communications; and the importance of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA). 

ASVA trade members should note that the event provides a unique platform to present your products to buyers from over 80 countries. In 2021, the event in Barcelona attracted over 8,000 attendees, 80% of whom were decision-makers, ranging from owners, operators or senior management of amusement, water or theme parks, family entertainment centres, aquariums, zoos, museums, malls, resorts, and other attraction facilities from all over the world.

Details of exhibitors already signed up for IAAPA Expo Europe 2022 can be viewed at Exhibitor List 2022. A real-time floorplan to view booth availability is accessible here. The IAAPA Exhibit Sales Team, who will be happy to assist with booth selection and planning, can be contacted at ExhibitSales@IAAPA.org or on tel. +32 2 790 6018.

For more information about this exciting event, please click on this link.

Our colleagues at the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) have shared with ASVA the findings of their most recent research into visitor sentiment across the UK. Commissioned by ALVA and undertaken by Decision House, this latest research was carried out over the first full week of June and examines the current barriers preventing the UK public from visiting attractions and the prospects for visitor admissions during the summer period.

Some of the key take outs of the research include:

  • The attractions sector is set for improved domestic visitor admissions in 2022, with over a third of attraction audiences claiming that they will visit more often than in 2021 compared with less than 15% who feel that they will visit less often.
  • There is a prevailing sense of happiness and relief among the public to return to ‘normality’ following the pandemic. However, lingering concerns relating to avoiding crowds and a feeling that the covid virus is still circulating are continuing to hold some audiences back from visiting, particularly those aged 55 or over.
  • The rising cost of living has emerged as a significant barrier to visiting attractions this summer/autumn.  40% of the public feel worse off than last year and this large group is much more likely than the rest of the public to say that they will visit attractions less often this year.
  • As a result of the cost-of-living crisis, free attractions are set to benefit at the expense of paid attractions, with half of this financially squeezed group feeling that they will visit free attractions more often and paid attractions less often this summer autumn.
  • Whilst a proportion of attraction members will squeeze as much value as possible out of their membership subscriptions this year, this is likely be tempered by lower renewal and acquisition rates among those feeling worse off.
  • The return of longer overseas holidays is also likely to limit opportunities for visiting UK attractions this summer and autumn, with domestic short breaks being the trips most likely to be sacrificed – 35% of the public have either taken or intend to take an overseas holiday of 5+ nights in 2022, compared with just 18% in 2021 

As always, we are grateful to ALVA for providing these findings free to ASVA members. You can access the full report at this link.

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer reports, for April 2022, are now available to view in the Members Area of our website.

As with the reports generated from January to March, comparing April 2022 figures to those of April 2021, is still largely irrelevant for the majority of attractions, or at least certainly for those whose activity is undertaken indoors. For virtually the whole month of April 2021 (up until 26th April), most of Scotland remained in Level 4 and therefore virtually all indoor attractions across the country were closed. Many outdoor attractions were open of course – and indeed were trading well – but the overall picture remained one where the majority of the sector was unable to trade. With that backdrop, reporting an increase in visitor numbers in April ‘22 of over 343% when compared to April ’21, does not provide us with an accurate picture of where the sector is at in terms of consolidation and recovery this year so far.

It is only when we analyse the 2022 figures against those of 2019, that we can fully understand to what extent the sector is building back from the devastating last two years caused by the pandemic. Comparing April ’22 with April ’19, across all ASVA attractions, visitor numbers were down by 24.6% for the month and down 31.2% for the year to date. These are reasonably encouraging figures, especially considering that the Easter holidays in 2019 were notably busy for many members. These relatively good numbers certainly back up what I have been hearing anecdotally from members over the last few months, with many feeling cautiously optimistic about the year on the back of comparatively good visitor numbers. Of course, had there been no pandemic and had we been reporting visitor numbers down by almost a third for the year, we would not be using phrases like ‘cautiously optimistic’ or ‘comparatively good’. However, these figures are certainly a lot better than we have been experiencing over the last two years and at least put many members on the path towards recovery.

The main reading to take from the April data is that we cannot yet say that we have a sector in ‘full recovery’. I have stated for a number of months that this will be a year of consolidation at best for many and having reviewed the data for April, I see no reason to alter this prognosis. In our ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government and STERG, ASVA will continue to shine a spotlight on the challenging conditions we face impacting the recovery, including recruitment, rising costs of doing business and, of course, the cost of living crisis.

The past two years have transformed how visitor attractions operate online forever. With the increased need for online bookings, additional revenue drivers, and a seamless on and offline experience, it’s more important than ever for attraction marketers to understand how their website is performing. But, knowing what good looks like is almost impossible until we uncouple attractions from the travel and tourism industry sector skewing the data. A new survey being conducted by ASVA member Rubber Cheese will do just that.

ASVA and ALVA, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, are supporting Rubber Cheese in its efforts to encourage attractions all over the country to take part in this research exercise to help our vibrant sector grow. We’d urge you to complete the 2022 Visitor Attraction Website Survey, which is anonymous, as its findings will greatly benefit businesses and our sector as a whole. Taking part will enable you, as an attraction operator, to:

  • Benchmark your website against national averages
  • Deep-dive into specific attraction types in specific locations and compare website performance within those sectors
  • Know ‘what great looks like’ and where you sit currently
  • Build arguments for future investment in your website and digital channels
  • Plan for the future and ongoing recovery of the sector

The survey just takes 15 minutes to complete and you will need access to your Google Analytics to do so. Everyone who takes part in the research will access to the 2022 Visitor Attraction Website Survey Report – and an invite to the launch event.

Please do participate and complete this highly relevant sectoral survey here.

We are pleased to share the results our latest survey, which was designed to gather information on the current performance, prospects and confidence levels of Scotland’s visitor attractions sector. This was a particularly important ‘snapshot’ survey as it was the first opportunity for us to take a pulse-reading of our sector since the lifting of all major COVID restrictions in January.
 
Undertaken from 25 April to 13 May to capture early season and Easter performance, the survey was sent to 590 organisations, representing 882 attractions. A total of 165 respondents, representing 313 attractions, took part so that very positive response rate gave us really robust data.

The key findings from the survey include:

  • Whilst the vast majority of the sector is fully open, a significant number of businesses are unable to operate at full capacity due to a combination of staffing and financial reasons.
  • The majority of the sector (over 94%) is still operating with some form of COVID-mitigating measures in place. The enforcement of such measures is, however, very light.
  • Visitor numbers and turnover figures are relatively encouraging in the first quarter of the year, with just under a quarter of respondents reporting numbers between 75% and 100% of those seen in 2019, and a further 1 in 10 reporting numbers above those seen in 2019. However, approximately 1 in 3 attractions reported numbers at 50% or under pre-pandemic levels.
  • International visitors appear to be returning – from certain markets at least – with 39.4% of respondents reporting ‘as anticipated’ or ‘better than anticipated’ numbers from Northern Europe, and a further 32.2% reporting similarly with regards to North American visitors.
  • Encouragingly, just under 60% of the sector believes their business is secure beyond the next 12 months, which compares favourably to the 16% who consider their business is insecure beyond a year.
  • Investment is taking place within the sector, with 71.5% of respondents reporting that they are investing at, or above, pre-pandemic levels in staff development and training, and almost the same number (69.8%) investing the same or more in regular maintenance, infrastructure and facilities.
  • Of concern, however, is the significant number of respondents who have reported that they are unable to take forward planned improvement and development works. Just over 29% of attractions reported less or no investment in new facilities and infrastructure in the 21/22 year, and a further 20.6% reported a significant reduction in investment in leadership development.
  • Recruitment challenges are being faced right across the country with 55.7% of the sector currently experiencing challenges in recruiting front of house staff, for both seasonal and permanent roles.

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison summarised the survey findings by saying: ‘’This is the first survey undertaken since the lifting of all major COVID restrictions in Scotland and, encouragingly, it points to the fact that the majority within the sector are slowly moving onto the road to recovery. We are however, not there yet, and it is perhaps more accurate to describe 2022/23 as a year of consolidation for the attractions sector in Scotland, rather than full blown recovery.

“Elements outwith the sector’s control, such as the rising costs of doing business and the ever-developing cost of living crisis, are also set to have a significant impact on our ability to recover fully. Unless steps are taken to help businesses with their rising costs, it is likely we’ll continue to see the developing pattern of less investment in new facilities and infrastructure and leadership development – the very areas where we will want to see investment if we are to achieve the longer-term ambitions of the tourism industry, as laid out in Outlook 2030. To help support the recovery and encourage investment, the Scottish & UK Governments must use whatever levers available to them to reduce the financial burden on businesses, many of whom are facing considerable COVID-related loan repayments on top of other costs.’’

You can view the summary report of the survey findings here. The full report is available to view in the Members Area of our website in the Surveys & Research section.

With both the Easter Holidays and legal covid restrictions now behind us, ASVA would like to take this opportunity to review where the sector currently finds itself, to establish confidence levels in the year ahead, how the beginning of the season has been and what members see as the main challenges ahead.

Working with our partners at the Moffat Centre for Travel & Tourism, we would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to complete our latest sector wide survey, the results of which will be summarised and shared across the membership, both in report format on the ASVA website and for discussion at our latest Members Meetup, taking place on Tuesday 31st of May (details of this event to follow in due course). And, of course, the results will be used to help inform ASVA in our ongoing lobbying and advocacy work, both through STERG and directly with the Scottish and UK Governments.

Please complete the survey (which should take no longer than 10 minutes) at this link by no later than 5pm on Friday 13 May.

Over the last few weeks, ASVA has heard from a few members asking if there are any ‘visitor friendly’ resources available out there to help with messaging to encourage the public to continue to wear face coverings. We are fully aware that the vast majority of attractions are not looking to be heavy handed with such an approach, but many are still keen to encourage the wearing of face coverings where possible, to continue to do their bit in controlling the spread of covid and, of course, to reassure visitors and staff.
 
ASVA Trade Member – Hole in My Pocket – has this week provided ASVA with a bank of ‘Friendly Posters’ which ASVA members can download, print and use completely free of charge at their venues, if looking for an additional tool to encourage not just the use of face coverings, but to also advertise further covid mitigating measures in place such as hand sanitiser stations, distancing and queuing etc. All Hole in Return would ask in return is that, if you do download and use any of the resources, please post about it online using the hashtag #holeinmypocket and/or follow them @himp (Twitter) or @himpdesign (Instagram).
 
A big thank you to Allistair Burt at Hole in My Pocket for providing this free resource to ASVA members. You can access the bank of ‘Friendly Posters’ here and if you want anything tweaked to better suit a particular circumstance, just drop Allistair a line and he will be happy to do this for you – info@holeinmypocket.com.

HIT Scotland is running a second phase of the highly successful Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme. The programme offers four different standalone one-day modules, specifically designed for those working in Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industries, to improve leadership, performance and engagement. Applications for this excellent skills and personal development opportunity close on Sunday, 1 May at midnight.

Prospective applicants are advised to read all of the programme specifics carefully to ensure they are eligible, can provide the correct information required, and understand what the programme entails before they apply to take part in the programme. This will offer 380 places, with 20 groups of 19 people able to take part in one of the sessions. (The number of groups for each course will depend on demand.)
 
Individuals can only apply for, and take part in, one module, which are as follows:

  • Extraordinary Leadership – Building Trust & Developing Resilience
  • Extraordinary Leadership – Conflict Resolution
  • Extraordinary Performance – Getting Things Done
  • Extraordinary Engagement – Developing a Coaching Culture

A number of dates from 25 May through to 15 June are available for the courses, and prospective applicants need to note all that they would be able to attend on their application form so they can be assigned one of the dates if their application is successful.

You can find full details of the Tourism and Hospitality Talent Development Programme, and information on how to apply by 1 May, here.

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer report, for February 2022, is now available to view in the Members Area of our website.

As noted when the first Barometer report of the year was published last month, due to the covid disruptions of the last 2 years, ASVA has decided to produce two reports per month to give you the best possible insights available. This report will compare 2022 figures for February with those of February last year, a year when covid disruption was still very much the norm. As a result, a second report has also been produced, comparing figures from 2022 with those of 2019, the last ‘normal’ year of trading for the sector.

Comparing February 2022 figures to those of February 2021, is virtually meaningless for the majority of attractions, or at least certainly for indoor attractions. For the month of February 2021, most of Scotland remained in Level 4 and therefore virtually all indoor attractions across the country were closed for the entire month. A number of outdoor attrarctions were open, and unsurprisingly, were trading well considering the lack of alternatives venues to attend, but the overall picture was one of ongoing closure and frustration for the sector. Therefore, the fact that visitor numbers in February ‘22 are up by 645% when compared to those of Feb ’21, by no means at all provides us with any indication of the ‘recovery’ of the attractions sector. 

It is only when we analyse the 2022 figures against those of 2019, that we can clearly see to what stage the recovery has started, or indeed if it has truly started at all. Looking at the numbers for February ’22, when compared to those of February ’19, it is immediately obvious that, overall, the sector has some way to go before we can say that we have genuinely entered into a recovery phase.  Overall, across ASVA attractions, visitor figures were down by 37.2% for the month and down 39% for the year to date. This was, of course, a month where omicron nervousness amongst the general public was still relatively and the Scottish Government messaging was still very cautionary when it came to advising the public about going out and undertaking activities, particularly if those activities were indoors. A considerable number of attractions were also maintaining their own covid measures, some of which limited the number of visitors at various sites, and this too undoubtedly is reflected in some of the figures that can be seen in the report.

What can clearly be surmised from the February figures is that we are, at very best, in the very early, very fragile, stages of recovery. In our ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government and STERG, ASVA will continue to highlight the fragile state the sector is in, as well as the challenging conditions we face impacting on the recovery, including the ever-rising costs of doing business. 

We would encourage all ASVA members to participate in the monthly and annual data collection exercises to ensure we build up as complete a picture as possible of industry performance. If you wish, you can submit your data requesting that your numbers remain confidential. Through our colleagues at Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Development we are currently collecting data from members for the Annual Report and we would urge all members to complete this exercise, as the information you provide greatly strengthens ASVA’s ability to advocate on the sector’s behalf.

For more information, and to ensure that your attraction is included in both the monthly and annual reports, please get in touch with The Moffat Centre’s Hugh Sheridan at hugh.sheridan@gcu.ac.uk or on 0141 273 1611.

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer report, providing January 2022 visitor figures, is now available to view in the Members Area of our website.

This year, in consultation with The Moffat Centre, we decided to produce two reports per month to give our members the best possible insights available. The new report compares January 2022 and 2021 figures. With considerable restrictions still in place, 2021 was far from normal and at the start of the year much of mainland Scotland was under ‘Level 4’ restrictions, resulting in the enforced closure of most attractions. We therefore produced a second report to compare figures from 2022 with those of 2019, the last ‘normal’ year of trading for the sector.

Whilst Omicron-related measures and messaging were in place, January 2021 was still a far better month than the sector had experienced in 2020 when the majority of attractions were fully closed. The overall figure of +338.4% on the surface appears to show a widespread recovery for our sector, with almost all areas and all attraction types reporting significantly increased visitation. This, however, presents a distorted picture and comparing the figures with those of 2019 reveals that January 2022 was an incredibly difficult month for the sector. Omicron measures – and Scottish Government messaging advising the public should only meet outdoors where possible – severely restricted visitor numbers, with figures being 42.4% down on 2019. Unsurprisingly, the only attraction types that reported significantly better figures were outdoor/nature attractions (overall reporting a healthy +71.7% on 2019 figures). 

This is why it’s hugely important that for this year, at the very least, we continue to report figures compared, not only with the year before, but also with 2019. It’s only by analysing results with those prior to the pandemic that we can assess if there is indeed any recovery taking place for our bruised and battered industry. 

We would encourage all ASVA members to participate in the monthly and annual data collection exercises to ensure we build up a picture of industry performance that’s as complete as possible. If you wish, you can submit your data requesting that your numbers remain confidential. Through our colleagues at the Moffat Centre, we are currently collecting data from members for the Annual Report, and we’d urge all members to complete this exercise, as information you provide greatly strengthens ASVA’s ability to advocate on the sector’s behalf.

For more information, and to ensure your attraction is included in both the monthly and annual reports, please get in touch with The Moffat Centre’s Hugh Sheridan at hugh.sheridan@gcu.ac.uk or on 0141 273 1611.

Headline figures for our annual Scottish Visitor Attractions Monitor, produced for ASVA by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre for Travel & Tourism Business Development, have been shared today.

Overall, last year’s visitor numbers were down over 47% on pre-pandemic levels. Paid-entry attractions welcomed just over 9 million visitors during 2021 compared to over 20 million in 2019 (a drop of 55%), whilst free venues had just over 20.2 million visitors last year compared to 35.5 million in 2019 (a drop of just over 43%). 

Outdoor, family-themed attractions, and sites with grounds and open-air activities, fared much better in general than predominantly indoor sites – reflecting continued consumer anxieties about infection transmission risks in enclosed spaces. The most visited paid-entry attraction in 2021 was Edinburgh Zoo, with 632,122 visitors, whilst perennial top free attraction – the National Museum of Scotland – was the year’s top free attraction once again, with 660,741 visitors. A drop in visitors of more than 1.5 million, when compared to 2019 figures, however, illustrates that it was a very challenging year for this iconic venue, as it was for virtually all indoor attractions.

As members will know only too well, indoor attractions were hit hard by having to undergo periods of closure and stop-start trading last year, and COVID restrictions such as physical distancing meant many were either unable to resume their operations fully or had to limit capacities for much of the main season. Figures from attractions that offer primarily indoor experiences reveal the extent to which their visitor numbers have been decimated during the past two years. Stirling Castle, for example, had 148,581 visitors in 2021 – an 88.1% increase from its 2020 total of 79,000 – however it saw a 75.6% decrease from its 2019 total of 609,698. Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum had 288,212 visitors in 2021, an 84.3% drop from its 2019 pre-pandemic total of 1,832,097.

ASVA CEO, Gordon Morrison, said: “The 2021 figures highlight what a uniquely challenging time attractions have experienced. This latest data provides clear evidence that our sector has been hit extremely hard for a considerably extended period of time due to the pandemic. Whilst we’ve seen some very welcome positive signs that business at a number of attractions is beginning to bounce back, so many of our operators are still in survival mode, and the vast majority unfortunately still face a very long road ahead to recovery.”

ASVA has long been lobbying the UK and Scottish Governments for additional assistance to stimulate recovery within the sector, advocating measures including the retention of the reduced level of VAT for attractions, as well as a continuation of 100% business rates relief. More recently, we have been strongly advocating for a second round of the VisitScotland-administered Days Out Incentivisation scheme. Created to stimulate domestic market visitation, the initiative’s positive impact was unfortunately impeded by the emergence of the Omicron COVID variant and the resultant return of government guidance regarding transmission risks in public spaces.

Gordon went on to say: “The major impact of the continued lack of an international audience is reflected in the figures we see today. Forecasts indicate that overseas visitor numbers won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024/2025 so attractions will continue to be heavily reliant on the domestic market, and business recovery will depend on that. We need to promote the fact that with fewer overseas visitors, there’s never been a better time for Scottish and UK residents to discover and explore the world-class visitor attractions on their doorstep. Visitors can take advantage of the uniquely quieter conditions with more space to enjoy attractions at leisure, and they’ll have the opportunity to enjoy more in-depth, personalised interactions with visitor services staff. There really are many more opportunities now to benefit from a truly enriched, immersive visitor experience.”

For the Scottish Visitor Attractions Monitor, 646 attraction operators provided their visitor figures for 2022, together with comparable pre-pandemic 2019 statistics. Key results from the report were as follows:

Attraction             2021 Visitors       2019 Visitors         Difference                    % Difference

Free                       20,206,442           35,551,821           – 15,345,379                         – 43.2%
Paid entry               9,079,189           20,167,719           – 11,088,530                          – 55.0% 
Total                       29,285,631          55,719,540            – 26,434,909                         – 47.4%

The full report will be published in the coming weeks and will be made available to ASVA members in the Members area of our website.  In the meantime, the top ten list of free and paid attractions in 2022 can be found here.

In her latest COVID update to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Tuesday, 15 March), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the laws on wearing face coverings in Scotland will not now be lifted next week on 21 March, as had been planned. People will be required to continue to wear face masks in indoor public settings – including indoor attractions as well as on public transport – until at least 4 April. Remaining legal requirements, including the requirement for venues to collect contact details for customers in certain settings, with however be lifted on Monday.  

The announcement on the postponement of the lifting of face covering regulations was made against the backdrop of a surge in COVID cases in recent weeks; the latest figures are not far off the peak seen last January. Ms Sturgeon advised that the short extension of the rules is a precautionary move to help us through the current high numbers of cases. She said: “Ensuring continued widespread use of face coverings will provide some additional protection – particularly for the most vulnerable – at a time when the risk of infection is very high, and it may help us get over this spike more quickly.

Ms Sturgeon will make a further statement to the Scottish Parliament in two weeks’ time when, she advised, it is hoped the face mask regulation will be converted to guidance. In the meantime, the public are urged to continue following all advice on hygiene, ventilation, vaccination, and testing (which will remain free in Scotland).
The First Minister also advised that, from 18 April, people without COVID symptoms will no longer be asked to take regular lateral flow tests. This development is part of the Test and Protect Transition Plan, which sets out how testing will become more targeted. The changes to Test and Protect mean that, from 18 April:

  • most people without symptoms will no longer be asked to take tests
  • free lateral flow devices (LFDs) for the purposes of twice-weekly routine testing will no longer be available for the general population given the changing advice, but will continue to be free for any purpose for which testing continues to be advised
  • vaccinated close contacts of someone with COVID should continue to test daily for seven days using LFDs
  • until the end of April, people with symptoms should still isolate and get a PCR test
  • PCR tests will still be able to be booked in the usual way until 30 April. From that date, test sites will close and people with symptoms will no longer be advised that they need to seek a test. The public health advice for people who feel unwell will be to stay at home until they feel better, to reduce the risk of infecting other people.

You can read the First Minister’s full statement here.