All the best insights we gathered from the ASVA conference 2019…

Last week’s ASVA conference 2019 came to life with a stellar presentation by Bernard Donoghue – he’s the Mayor of London’s Culture Ambassador, CEO of ALVA, and an all-round top banana.

Bernard suggested that there’s a hint of a slowdown approaching which could easily turn into a recession. The strong visitor numbers of the last few years won’t continue across the board, so how can we all continue to flourish?

Above all, Bernard reminded us that it’s the people, not the objects, that make a visitor attraction a roaring success. Five-star Trip Advisor reviews typically mention a staff member by name, where four-star reviews generally don’t.

Way more than looking at objects, and reading panels, visitors love to see and hear human stories. They’ll pay money to see and get involved with makers crafting things, gardeners growing things, and narrators (ideally dressed in costume) telling stories.

So, think about what story your attraction is telling and be creative about how your people can bring it alive to build memories for the visitor. Make people feel something and create memories that even the most engaging and interactive interpretation panel will struggle to challenge.

Think about how you want your visitor to feel and, critically, what do you want them to share on social after they leave…?


Top takeaways

Simple reminder

Focusing on ways we can increase profitability with these three simple points:

  1. Sell more to existing customers
  2. Get new customers
  3. Do things more efficiently

Nostalgic experience

Though counterintuitive, the visitor sector is in an ideal position in a time of future uncertainty. When the economy slows, we all like nostalgic experience as it provides us with reassurance and escape… i.e. Downton Abbey, Great British Bake Off, Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Stretch and add to our offer

How can we stretch our brand offer while staying true to our purpose and cause? Can we be braver and maybe take a few risks? Some great examples of this are:

Climate change

It’s a hot topic. But what if really cold winters and really hot summers are the new norm, how are we adjusting our business plan and offers to cope?

We visited the National Trust’s Hanbury Hall this year for the outdoor cinema event but had to cancel because the weather was too hot (at 6pm!).

Green Tourism UK gave us a timely reminder of how we can do our bit

  1. Print on FSC paper                          
  2. Promote low carbon transport  
  3. Understand provenance of product   
  4. Be accountable for the carbon your organisation contributes
  5. Take part in the @Refill campaign 

Kiss (or CISS) your Customers

Stuart Cassells, GM at The Macallan Estate shared his strategy to recruit customers from other spirits and not from other whisky brands.

Clarity – about why / purpose

Involve – your customer in the process of what you do (demonstrate distilling)

Senses – ensure visitors enjoy the whole sensory experience

Story – tell your unique story in unforgettable ways

Scottish Tourism Alliance is launching its ambitious vision for Scotland to be a world leader in 21st century tourism by 2030. They want to enrich lives and preserve our places in the industry by acting as pioneers for delivering responsible tourism.  We need to build a 21st Century tourism industry for all – our visitors, our people, our businesses, our communities and our environment.

We all have our part to play.


Get in touch to find out how we can help put these into practice for your visitor attraction.