This global trend has huge implications for the tourism sector, especially for the management of visitor attractions. All visitor attractions – whether a world-famous tourist destination, a museum, an amusement park or a local shopping mall – are people-centric and stand to benefit from re-assessing the visitor experience that they offer.
Accordingly, attractions need to take cognisance of changing trends in what experience-seeking consumers want. Enter the attraction specialist – a new breed of expert in understanding these trends.
These are the top ten specialist jobs the visitor attraction industry is likely to see in the next decade:
1. Experience economy advisor
Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore’s seminal book The Experience Economy remains essential reading for attraction managers. Attractions are competing for people’s time, attention and money, and there are new kinds of attractions emerging all the time: pop-ups, immersive art experiences, adult playgrounds and virtual reality experiences. Joe Pine advises attractions to keep ahead of the game. “As an attraction, you are competing with new genres of experiences… that just didn’t exist, ten years ago. You must recognise, therefore, that what made you successful in the past isn’t enough today. You have to think about how you better customise that experience for individuals.”
Experience economy advisors will use cutting edge research and industry best practice to guide attractions in adapting to the experience economy.
2. Mall-makeover consultant
As consumers are moving online, the role of the shopping mall is changing – and malls are having to redefine themselves. Malls will still be places for people to meet, socialise and interact with brands but mall managers are increasingly looking to add experiences to the mix, instead of products, to draw feet and increase dwell time.
For example, surfing, skiing, skateboarding and even indoor skydiving have been added as drawcards to shopping centres around the world. Museums too are being added to shopping precincts, such as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa at the V&A Waterfront.
Mall-makeover consultants will advise malls as to which attractions are best suited to their demographic and available space. As retailers and attractions have different needs, the consultant will have to be well versed in both worlds to ensure success for all parties.
3. Sensory-friendly consultant
Leading visitor attractions are becoming more sensory friendly as they develop programmes that are suitable for sensory-sensitive audiences such as those with autism and for customers who would just like a quieter sensory experience – including the elderly and the stressed.
To accommodate their customers’ needs, museums such as the Smithsonian and Bletchley Park offer special vising hours with reduced stimulation – bright lights, flickering images and loud or unusual sounds are all turned off and activities are run in small groups to avoid the stress of crowds.
Museums are also becoming more aware of using sensory input to enhance the visitor experience. For example, AromaPrime helps museums and attractions to create immersive and interactive experiences through the sense of smell by creating specific scents for exhibits. Aromas include dragon’s breath, dungeon, racing car and old-fashioned hospital.
Sensory-friendly consultants will work with attractions to both train staff and advise on sensory stimulation interventions. Their specialisation will not only be in decreasing sensory input where applicable, but also in providing sensory enhancement to aid storytelling and immersion in the experience offered.
4. Yold specialist
The yold are “young old” – people aged between 65 and 75 – and they are healthier, wealthier and more socially engaged than ever before. Yolds will be significant users of all visitor attractions worldwide. Currently estimated at 134 million people, this demographic wants their interests and needs catered for when visiting attractions, without lumping them into an aged category.
A yold specialist will help attractions to become cognisant of this demographic and to match the structure and design of their sites, and their offerings, to meet yold preferences.
5. Cultural data analyser
It is imperative that attractions understand who visits their sites – and why they visit. Equally important is understanding who does not visit, and why they don’t visit, your attraction. Delving into why visitors and non-visitors decide whether to invest their precious time with you increasingly rests on critical data analysis.
Cultural data analysers, such as Colleen Dilenschneider will offer attractions insight into audience perceptions, behaviours and expectations as well as industry trends to ensure their decisions are data-informed.
Neuroscience research is being used to create more impactful experiences at museums. For example, the Peabody Essex Museum in the USA recently appointed a neuroscientist-in-residence – the first art museum to do so.
The museum’s mission statement is to create “experiences that transforms people’s lives” by “interpreting objects of art and culture in ways that increase knowledge, enrich the spirit, engage the mind and stimulate the senses”.
Neuroscience is providing the museum with a deeper understanding of how their visitors engage with art, particularly in the three spheres of attention, emotion and memory.
Following this ground-breaking initiative, neuroscientists will help attractions to improve the design and display of their exhibits and provide more meaningful and relevant experiences.
7. Director of fun
Attractions need to take fun more seriously. A recent study by La Placa Cohen found that the single greatest motivator for attending a cultural activity (including museums, parks, festivals and movies) was to have fun. In fact, 81% of respondents said fun was the primary motivator. And that was not just for children – adults want to have fun too!
There is a proliferation of experiences on offer that allow adults to “play” – with or without their children. The success of escape rooms, worldwide, is testament to the quest for fun. So is Diggerland, an adventure themepark, where adults and children operate full-size construction machinery. Mainstream attractions are incorporating fun into their offerings, for example the Tate Modern’s installation of 3-seater swings to encourage social interaction between visitors.
A director of fun will work with attractions to incorporate safe, curious, interactive fun for all age groups whilst also ensuring that serious topics are not lost in the quest to have fun.
8. Chief of interactive experience art
Interactive large-scale art experiences are becoming sought-after attractions, and the demand keeps growing. These immersive and interactive artworks have the power to transport visitors into another world, in real life. They draw huge crowds: Banksy’s Dismaland, a dystopian theme park, drew 150 000 visitors in 26 days; Christo and Jean-Claude’s Floating Piers, the iconic sunburst orange piers floating on an Italian lake, drew 1.2 million visitors over two weeks; and Meow Wolf, an arts and entertainment collective specialising in immersive art installations has four new sites planned across America in the next two years.
A local example is the Long March to Freedom – a procession of 100 life-sized bronze statues displayed at Century City.
Building on this phenomenon, a chief of interactive experience art will work with attractions to source and curate credible, authentic artists that can design suitable experiences to bring family and friends together in real life.
9. Pop-up specialist
Pop-up attractions are temporary in nature and range from educational travelling museum exhibits to highly-instagrammable selfie backdrops. The astonishing success of the pop-up Museum of Ice Cream speaks to the power of the selfie-taking generation, but also to the demand for fun and playfulness.
This enormously popular ‘museum’, an interactive art exhibit with ice cream-themed selfie backdrops has more than 400 000 followers on Instagram and has attracted 500 000 visitors. This pop-up attraction is now permanent and has launched its own ice cream store.
As pop-up attractions grow in stature, attractions will increasingly incorporate them to appeal to a wider audience. For example, the Serpentine Pavilion project, one of the ten most-visited architectural exhibits in the world, commissions an international architect to design a temporary pavilion for the gallery every year.
Pop-up specialists will focus on sourcing and creating visitor attractions that are designed to be placed for a short time frame only. This is ideal for sites that do not have the capacity to meet visitor demand across all seasons. It also allows for more experimental projects.
10. Capacity specialist
Many attractions experience visitor pressure during peak periods and for some attractions, overtourism has resulted in sustained pressure throughout the year. This was highlighted in May 2019, when staff at the Louvre went on strike arguing that overcrowding in the museum was resulting in a poor visitor experience, and an unmanageable one for staff.
Capacity specialists will focus on peak visitor issues by advising attractions on tools to aid pressure management such as dynamic pricing, queue management, experience pacing and food and beverage remodelling. They will also develop peak carrying capacity plans and design the best operating level for the facility. A capacity specialist will be able to forecast high capacity days and ensure that attractions and their staff are trained and ready for them.